Changes coming to world wine map


THERE’S no clear-cut agreement about how climate change might affect specific wine-growing regions, but there’s a growing consensus in the international wine industry that change is occurring. Among the predictions are that the best growing conditions will be in coastal zones, high deserts, mountain foothills, and those regions that have traditionally been considered too close to either the North or South Pole to support wine grapes. In today’s wine regions, the coping strategy leans toward replanting vineyards with grape varieties better equipped to handle heat. Here’s a quick look at some forecasted changes.

Europe: Politicians will be forced to rethink wine regulations across the continent, particularly the laws banning irrigation. In France, climate change has been great news so far, but in Bordeaux, rising temperatures are pushing Merlot past its optimal environment. Expect it to be replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Those varieties along with Syrah, Grenache and Carignane will become increasingly popular alternatives in the Languedoc as well. Burgundy is expected to have reliably ripe vintages every year. German winemakers will plant more red varieties and consider the reclassification of the country’s grand cru vineyards. England’s vineyard acreage is expected to double in the next 10 years with an emphasis on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to make sparkling wines. In Spain and Portugal, the predictions are dire unless the laws change to allow irrigation. Meanwhile, star Spanish vintner Miguel Torres and others are buying vineyard land in the Pyrenees foothills. The emerging areas are Denmark, Belgium and the mountainous regions of Central Europe.

North America: California’s Central Valley may fade as a wine grape growing region, and the state’s northern and southern coastal zones will become prime vineyard real estate. Expect more Syrah and Grenache planted in regions famous for Cabernet Sauvignon. Viticulture will expand in the high desert regions of central Washington, Arizona and even Colorado.


Australia and New Zealand: Australia’s continental vineyard regions along the Murray River will continue to struggle with drought conditions and, like the rest of the world, the vineyard areas cooled by ocean breezes will be favored. The island climates of Tasmania and New Zealand make them ideally suited to weather the changing climate.

South America: Chile is often referred to as the country most perfectly positioned to capitalize on the changing climate. It could pioneer its southern areas in Patagonia that are closer to the South Pole, plant vineyards at higher elevations along the Andes foothills or cultivate its coastal regions that are cooled by ocean breezes. Argentina could develop more of its high desert regions west of Mendoza.

South Africa: The coastal regions will be protected from the temperature increases expected to plague the inland valleys.

New frontiers: China’s high deserts.


-- Corie Brown