Will our wine beat the heat?

File: Vine varieties and wine makers are adapting with earlier harvesting, changes in grape varieties and new wine-making processes. Photo: eNCA

PARIS - It’s good news for wine lovers around the globe.

The international body of climate change says grape vines have what it takes to beat the heat.

The head of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) says grape vines are hardy little numbers and can survive global warming over the long term.

Vine varieties and wine makers are adapting with earlier harvesting, changes in grape varieties and new wine-making processes.

This has already helped counter the impact of the harsher weather hitting vineyards across the globe.

"Wine producers all over the world have adapted to the changes and the plant has a capacity of adjustment that you can find in no other plant," says OIV Director General Jean-Marie Aurand.

Aurand cited the example of the Canary island of Lanzarote where vines are grown in lava which absorbs overnight dew - virtually the sole water they receive in the summer - and releases it during the day.

On the flip side of that, in China, vines are covered throughout winter as more than 80 percent of production land is located in regions where temperatures drop to -30 degrees Celsius.

But it’s not just the plants that are hardy, it’s the winemakers too.

In Australia, Treasury Wine Estates Ltd, is testing technology to water vines underground. It’s also expanding fermentation capacity to combat the impact of climate change on its vineyards around the world.

"You can adapt to climate change or you can react to it," says Treasury Wine Chief Supply Officer Stuart McNab.

He was addressing the Global Climate Change Summit earlier this month and said "You've got time to react, but you've got to know what's happening."

Despite the worries of many producers, notably in the Champagne region, Aurand was not very concerned for the future of wines sold under protected designation labels that tie them to the soil and viticulture practices of a specific region.

"We have today other strains and cultivation techniques, so I'm not worried in the short or mid-term on this question, which does not mean we should not consider the issue of climate change as a whole," Aurand said.

Italy is back to its position in the front of the pack after a 10-percent rebound in output. This means it will regain its position as leading world producer after losing it to France last year due to a weather-hit grape crop.

Overall, it’s good news for the wine sector which has seen a 2% rise in production in 2015 to 275.7 million hectolitres of wine. 

But although there is a rise in production, consumption levels are down to around 248.8 million hectolitres.

Western European countries are drinking less wine while consumption in the USA is on the rise.


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