Wednesday 18 January 2017

Wine growers will survive looming threat of climate change

Sybille de La Hamaide and Pascale Denis

Published 03/11/2015 | 02:30

Good news for wine drinkers: a leading international body says grape vines are hardy enough to survive climate change, at least over the medium term.

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Earlier harvesting, changes in grape varieties and new wine-making processes have already helped counter the impact of the harsher weather hitting vineyards around the globe.

That's according to the head of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). "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," OIV director general Jean-Marie Aurand told Reuters.

He cited the example 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.

He said more than 80pc of production acreage in China is located in regions where temperatures can drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter. Growers cover vines to protect them and uncover them when spring comes.

Some winemakers, meanwhile, are shifting the way they produce wine.

Australia's Treasury Wine Estates, for example, is testing technology to water vines underground and is expanding fermentation capacity to combat the impact of climate change on its vineyards.

"You can adapt to climate change or you can react to it," Treasury Wine chief supply officer Stuart McNab said at a Reuters Global Climate Change Summit earlier this month.

"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 of France, Mr Aurand was not very concerned for the future of wines sold under protected designation labels.

These labels tie them to the soil and viticulture practices of a specific region such as the Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) system in France.

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

It was too early to give an outlook for 2050, he added.

The OIV sees global wine output rising 2pc in 2015 to 275.7m hectolitres (mhl), Mr Aurand said. A 10pc rebound in Italy's output meant it would regain its position as leading world producer after losing it to France last year due to a weather-hit grape crop.

Rosé wine has witnessed an increase in consumption in recent times and as a result the OIV has adapted its estimations to accommodate the new demand. It says that in 2014 the global production of rosé wines is estimated at 9.6pc of the world's still wine production.

Four countries are responsible for 80pc of the production of rosé wine, France, Spain, the US and Italy. The consumption of the wine group has grown by 20pc since 2002 with only a few countries seeing a fall in consumption. France experienced the biggest jump in consumption of rosé wine as it grew 13pc since 2002.

OIV gave an initial overall consumption forecast for 2015 at between 235.7 and 248.8 mhl, down from around 240 mhl last year. As opposed to western European countries where consumers are drinking less wine, consumption would rise again in the United States, which became the world's largest consumer in 2013, it said.

Irish Independent

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