Adapting Winemaking Due to Climate Change

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Wine Searcher has an informative article titled Short and Sweet: The New Vintage Paradigm, exploring the challenges and adaptations facing the wine industry in the wake of climate change. As the globe warms, winemakers are have to cope with a significant shift in their traditional practices due to a compressed growing season for grapes.

The acceleration of the vintage is a worldwide phenomenon, with winemakers witnessing a considerable shortening of the growing season. In Bordeaux, the growing season has reduced from 100-110 days to approximately 90 days. This trend is echoed in regions like Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Italy’s Trentino, where the harvests are occurring earlier, shortening the growing period by 7-10 days or more.

Vineyard operations are increasingly complex due to the need for balancing phenolic and sugar ripeness in different grape varieties, exacerbated by challenges like higher sugar levels and irrigation demands. Winemakers face difficulties with late red varieties and early-ripening types, yet benefit from lower disease pressure and faster harvests, avoiding inclement weather.

Adaptation strategies are vital, with a focus on canopy management to protect grapes from intense sun, particularly in regions like the Rheingau, Paso Robles, Sicily, and Tuscany. Cellar adjustments include modifying alcohol levels, maceration times, and extraction techniques, with innovations like using whole bunches for aromatic freshness. As climate change shortens and heats up seasons, winemakers explore new locations and varieties, while striving to preserve traditional terroirs and improve vine resistance.