Warming temperatures could make 70% of the world's wine-growing regions unsuitable to produce grapes: Scientists

Other regions farther to the north could start to produce more wine.

March 26, 2024, 12:00 PM

Rising global temperatures could change where the majority of the world's wine is produced as mid-latitude regions may no longer be able to grow grapes, according to researchers.

Up to 70% of current wine-producing regions could face a substantial risk of losing the suitability for wine-growing if global temperatures increase beyond 2 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, a review of more than 200 studies published Tuesday in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment found.

Many of the regions known for producing wine are located along the mid-latitude range, including California, southern France and northern Spain. But climate change could change the geography of wine production as warmer temperatures impact grape yield, grape composition at harvest and wine quality, according to the review.

The researchers segmented each continent and their wine-producing areas into macro-regions defined by specific climate-driven conditions, estimating that there is a substantial risk of unsuitability for 49% to 70% of existing wine regions, depending on the degree of global warming.

PHOTO: Vineyards in Bolzano, Italy, June 26, 2014.
Vineyards in Bolzano, Italy, June 26, 2014.
Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

Extreme climate conditions, such as increased heatwaves and excessive droughts, could prevent premium wine production in 29% of the locations, according to the researchers.

"There comes a point, though, when it's so dry, it's so hot, that it's very unlikely that it's gonna be sustainable," he said.

However, Greg Gambetta, professor of viticulture at Bordeaux Sciences Agro and the Institute for the Science of the Vine and Wine in France and co-author of the paper, emphasized that grapes are a "hearty" crop that can often withstand extremes.

"They grow everywhere, from the deserts of Israel, for example, all the way to tropical regions," he told ABC News.

PHOTO: Vineyards in Pauillac a wine producing area of the Bordeaux region in France.
Vineyards in Pauillac a wine producing area of the Bordeaux region in France.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Places that are known for a particular climate that produces excellent wines, such as Bordeaux, France, may experience an identity shift if warmer temperatures no longer allow consistent production, Gambetta said.

Other existing wine-growing regions farther north, such as Washington state and northern France, could experience enhanced production with higher temperatures, the review found. New suitable areas might emerge at higher latitudes as well, such as the United Kingdom that is farther south.

"In all these countries, in the Netherlands and in northern Europe, where people never considered really growing wine grapes, people are now starting to consider it," he said.

PHOTO: Vineyards and pastures, Jan. 26, 2024, in Solvang, Calif.
Vineyards and pastures, Jan. 26, 2024, in Solvang, Calif.
George Rose/Getty Images

As viticulture expands into new regions, impacts on natural ecosystems and biodiversity will need to be monitored so any negative impacts can be mitigated, the authors cautioned.

J.J. Huber, winemaker and owner of the Laguna Canyon Winery in Southern California, told ABC News that climate change is "always gonna be a concern going forward" for the wine industry.

While Huber has not yet noticed any changes in wine quality despite drought conditions in the region, he is aware of current research that will study dry farming and how to adapt to a future when there is less water availability.

"It's not something that we can answer today," Huber said.

The degree of these changes in suitability will strongly depend on the level of temperature rise, the researchers said.

Climate change will drive major changes in global wine production in the near future, which will require both winegrowers and consumers to adapt to warmer temperatures, the authors concluded.

There is a lot of adaptation that can occur now, Gambetta said.

Some regions, especially in Europe, will need to develop irrigation systems, in the event that record-hot temperatures and drought limit water availability, he said.

Growers will also need to manage their vineyards in a way that they can change and evolve with warmer temperatuers and the extreme weather conditions that will accompany it, Gambetta said.

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