Global Warming is Changing Weather Patterns and the Wine Industry

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Bad news for your mom: rising temperatures around the world are affecting the specific environmental factors that produce great wine, according to a study out this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Just like a great roast of coffee, a great wine is contingent on a series of fickle factors such as grape variety, harvesting practices, a vineyard’s slope and aspect, soil, climate and more. These factors are referred to as terroir coming from the French word terre, which means land. Weather is a huge factor in yielding a great crop. In much of France and Switzerland, the best years are traditionally those with abundant spring rains followed by an exceptionally hot summer and late-season drought. This drives vines to put forth robust, fast-maturing fruit, and brings an early harvest.

The study, for which scientists analyzed 20th and 21st-century weather data, found that warming climate has largely ridden the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. This is bad news for vineyards, as past studies have already predicted climates growing too hot to grow grapes using traditional methods. Vineyards may then have to switch to hotter-climate varieties, change long-established methods, move or go out of business. The earth is shifting, and terroirs with it.