Sustainability Climate Change

How the climate crisis is crushing the wine business

(AP/Eric Risberg)

Story at a glance

  • Increasingly hot temperatures combined with worsening natural disasters make it difficult for the crop to grow.
  • Wine grapes usually need a special set of weather conditions to ripen properly, and climate change is making that harder.
  • Somewhere between 165,000 to 325,000 tons of grapes went unharvested last year as a result of the California wildfires, which have been made worse due to climate change.

Changes to the climate are changing the wine industry as we know it, and for some producers who have noticed changes to weather since the 1990s, some of the changes have been positive, while other changes have been negative

Due to warming temperatures, countries like England, which have not traditionally been suited for growing grapes for wine, have been able to enter the industry, according to The New York Times.

According to one study, climate change could make the United Kingdom one of the world’s leading wine producers by the year 2100. The study adds that conditions in central and eastern parts of England could be ideal for Sauvignon Blanc, and the cities of Edinburgh and Elgin in Scotland could produce Pinot Grigio.


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But for many producers, increasing temperature and worsening natural disasters brought on by climate change are only hurting their crops. 

Most wine grapes need a particular set of weather conditions to grow and ripen properly, according to The Guardian. Grapes ripen faster than they should if temperatures become too hot too soon, which can affect the flavor of the wine, according to the publication. And if temperatures drop, the cold weather can quickly kill buds and vines, potentially lowering the amount of grapes produced in a harvest, the outlet added. 

After California and Oregon were ravaged by wildfires last summer, numerous wineries across both states lost harvests. 

About 165,000 to 325,000 tons of California wine grapes went unharvested last year because of the wildfires, adding to the more than $600 million in loss from the fires and their smoke, according to an industry analysis released in July by the California Association of Winegrape Growers and Allied Grape Growers. 


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