Discussion: Countless decisions are made by humans every single day due to the weather; similarly, climate impacts daily lives. When it comes to wine production, the most likely pair of weather and climate are the primary environmental concern for viticulture, the process of grape-growing. Wine is produced in different climate zones across the globe from Australia to Brazil, South Africa to China, and of course here in the U.S.
Let’s explore the ways in which weather and climate are important factors for wine production. In short, an article in the Journal of Wine Economics explained that temperature affects fruit ripening (warmer temperatures yield more sugar accumulation) and the best quality wine is made from grapes with a high sugar level. Water deficit impairs photosynthesis, which reduces the size of the grape, and vine water status is dependent upon rainfall.
Global wine production has hit a 56-year low and this type of poor harvest is expected to become a common phenomenon in future years. Earlier this year, a trio of extreme weather events in three of the largest wine-producing countries (Italy, Spain, and France) was the primary cause of harvest losses. While all three countries experienced a severe spring frost, there was a lengthy summer heat wave in Italy and a historic drought in Spain. Just last year, El Niño related extreme rainfall drowned out more than a quarter of Argentinian vineyards. Since these events have had negative impacts on the wine industry in the past, there is an increased concern for the future of the wine industry.
In recent years, wine quality has increased in most wine-growing regions due to higher temperatures and frequent water shortages while yields have decreased. High quality wines in warmer and dryer climates produce economically acceptable yields. Vines are best grown in the mid-latitudes. An ideal climate for vineyards is described as having adequate precipitation and warmth to grow and ripen the grapes. Then, abundant sunshine and warm temperatures are needed during flowering. Summer growth should consist of dry and hot conditions; and when ripening, it needs to be dry with “moderately high daytime temperatures” and “progressively cooler nights”. All the while, extreme weather events and frost must stay out of sight.
Knowing these factors is just the tip of the iceberg to understanding the impact of weather and climate to viticulture. While many environmental factors determine the level of success of a wine production season, studies have found that a warm and dry climate is preferred for lucrative harvests and good quality wine production. As a final thought for those wine lovers, though the future of wine production and viticulture as a whole will change with our changing climate, growers are already applying measures of adaptation to vineyards and wineries.
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©2017 Weather Forecaster Amber Liggett