Most of us know that climate change is an ongoing problem, but it can be hard to see the direct effects of it in our daily lives. Unless you study the populations of animals that are suffering due to it or are a farmer, the change is definitely incremental enough to ignore. But climate change is already affecting wine production, so maybe more people will notice what is going on a little sooner than expected. Because whether you can experience the effects of climate change or not, it’s happening.
European wine crops are suffering under climate change.
Which means it’s going to be harder — and more expensive — to order an oaky Tuscan red or sparkly Champagne very, very soon. Because of warming temperatures, more and more crops of grapes are suffering. There’s just not enough of a harvest since the plants die before they’re able to pull water from underground during a climate change-induced drought. Producers are picking the grapes earlier, which inevitably changes the taste and quality of the wine. Winemaker Michele Reverdito, an Italian winemaker, told The New York Times, “Nebbiolo [the grape used to make barolo] means ‘the wine of the fog’ because you picked the grapes in November. Now we pick in September! The world is changing.”
European winemakers are worried for a few reasons. The least serious is that if all of the studies on climate change are true, they’re going to have to start cultivating grapes that are meant for hotter temperatures. Which means that the old school wines that they’re so proud of in certain regions will have to be changed. Imagine a Bordeaux, France without a cabernet franc! Or if Champagne, France is no longer the capitol of sparkly wine?
This is all an issue if you’re really concerned about heritage. But it’s not just about “never changing.” Because of this year’s drought, production of Piemontese franciacorta (which is just an Italian version of champagne, really) will be down 15 percent. That means fewer profits for the small wine producers and families who depend on their business as a primary source of income. And it means less imported wine on our shelves, and higher price tags when it is in stock.
This is not good on so many levels. Obviously, there are far more important and severe reasons to pay attention to climate change than what kind of wine we prefer to drink. But there are tons of economic consequences, too, like small European winemakers going out of business. Climate change is real. Maybe once it comes for our vino, more people will get on board with trying to slow it.