WINE PRODUCERS FACE CLIMATE CHANGE THREAT

Spanish wine makers are having to learn how to cope with the latest threat to their industry – climate change. Ten years ago, most wineries started gathering in their grapes during September but climate change has caused the temperature to rise and now grape varieties are ripening up to a month earlier. Until now, the changes to grapes caused by higher temperatures – like fruitier flavours and higher concentrations of alcohol – have generally had a positive impact on the taste of wines all over the world. But if temperatures in Spain keep rising – and they have gone up by 2ºC on average in the past 50 years – the wines could taste very different and some vintages will be ruined. Some wine makers, like Miguel Torres, are experimenting with different grape varieties that are more resistant to high temperatures and taking other, more drastic steps. He said: “It may be that in 30 or 40 years this place here, this vineyard, becomes too hot, too warm for the merlot so then we have to move merlot slowly to the mountain area where the climate is cooler.” At smaller wineries, like the sparkling wine maker Gramona, the bottling is still done by hand but they are just as concerned about the threat of climate change. The grapes used to make sparkling wine are particularly sensitive to changes in the climate. Harvesting is done at night to protect the grapes from the heat and the grape juice is brought into the winery via metal pipes to further cool the fluid. Gramona also uses a very hi-tech system to monitor the grapes as they are actually growing: a weather station right in the middle of the vineyard. Jaume Gramona is investing €1m euros in a four-year climate change study because rising temperatures are already affecting its grapes. He said: He saidH> “We now have to protect the grapes more from the sun by allowing their leaves to grow thicker, so it’s more difficult for the cava grapes to absorb carbonic gas which makes their creamy bubbles.” Pancho Campo, president of the Wine Academy of Spain said that, worldwide, most wine makers are not doing enough about climate change because it is not yet affecting their income. Consumers are already tasting a result of climate change. Regions once too cold to grow grapes are now producing wine and competing for markets. This could be the wine industry’s climate change wake-up call. Sr Campo said: “Twenty years ago you would never have imagined that Belgium, Denmark and Holland would produce quality wine. But they are already producing some interesting wines.”

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