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Tuesday, 19 March 2019 09:42

Wine climate change – Impact on viticulture

Ph. Credit: Vigneto Alto Margon Tenute Lunelli Trento Ph. Credit: Vigneto Alto Margon Tenute Lunelli Trento
Ph. Credit: Vigneto Alto Margon Tenute Lunelli Trento|| Ph. Credit: Vigneto Alto Margon Tenute Lunelli Trento|| ||

Wine like everything else on this planet is subject to climate changes, because of the impact climate has on viticulture. The “Climate Strike” of the 15th of March has brought about a great shock on the subject, on which we are all invited to reflect on.

The study investigates the impact of climate changes on the phenological phases of five varieties of vines in two future periods: 2021-2050 and 2071- 2099. An interdisciplinary study conducted by the Edmund Mach Foundation, centre C3A jointly with the University of Trento and the Bruno Kessler Foundation.

A study which starts from the fact that, being the mediterranean region a “hot spot”, that is a place where the temperatures will rise more than in other areas, the projections affirm that in terms of climate change, the situation will change regarding wine growing and not only that.

The research in fact states that in the future we shall have a briefer growing cycle, which will consist in an anticipated beginning and a shorter duration of the various single phases of development. This research was published in the prestigious magazine “Agricultural and Forest Metereology” and based on the activities of the Progetto Envirochange financed by the Province of Trento.


Wine climate change

There are indicated in this analysis certain strategies of adaptation which can be identified, like for example: the transferral of the vine in altitude. or the modification of the vinification techniques and/or the change of the vines cultivated choosing those more suitable for warmer climates.

The director Ilaria Pertot, of the Centro Agricoltura Alimenti Ambiente C3A, underlines that: “That is why the wine industry is called upon to invest in the future on strategies for adaptation to handle the impact envisaged, which in any case will be heterogeneous in varieties and regions. An assessment at regional level is thus crucial for applying targeted strategies and measures. The work proves once again the importance of the synergy of the trentino system which has involved FEM, Università di Trento with the C3A and Fondazione Bruno Kessler: without the multidisciplinary competences present in our institutions it would not have been possible to reach this important result both for the scientific and the practical significance”.

For this study the climatic regional model Fenovitis has been applied, on five vine varieties, and has been used to simulate the phases of germination: full bloom and ripening, with cultivation altitudes which vary from 67 metres to 950 above sea level.

Vine varieties subjected to the study for the climate change and the impact on viticulture and on wine.

- Chardonnay
- Merlot
- Pinot Nero
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc

The first consequences, on this impact are expected already in the next 30 years and will be even more evident at the end of this century. In the introduction of the publication, infact, is reported that the increase of temperature could bring an anticipation of 6–25days for the different vine varieties, with an average of 3-6 days anticipation for every degree of increased heat in the last 30-50 years.

An increase which will not be uniform though throughout a mountaineous region like Trentino is, infact locally, the biggest change in the phenology of the vine is awaited where there are higher altitudes, mainly where the basic temperatures are lower.

Bunch of grapes

Variations, simulations and forecasts from 2021 to 2099 in Trentino, for the climatic change and the impact on viticulture and on wine.

– from 2021 to 2050: the harvest will occur before it does in the present conditions from one to two weeks
– from2071 to 2099 the harvest will occur before it does in the present conditions up to four weeks

The forecast indicates furthermore that the time of harvest will reduce the temporal disparaty between the locations situated on mountains and those in valleys, because of the faster phenologic development at higher altitudes.
For example:

-Pinot Grigio and the Merlot, cultivated in vineyards situated on lower altitudes, show the lowest expectation of phase anticipation, but the highest shortening of the growing season.
-Pinot Nero, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay, which are found at higher altitudes, have an opposite conduct.

For the harvest, on the basis of this research there will be some changes which envisage another consequence that is the abbreviation of the harvest period for wine cellars. This shall require adjustments of management in the organization of wineries.

Adaptation strategies for the climatic change and the impact on viticulture and on wine.

 The researchers, in the face of these forecasts, propose two different strategies for adaptation:

– A transferral of the cultivation in altitude, which would serve to maintain the same types and quality of product, aiming at the cultivation of the existing varieties in colder areas.
– Depending upon the cultivation area changes in the vinification process and/or opting for a change of vines to those more suitable to warmer climates.

The concrete actions for the climate change and the impact on viticulture and on wine.

- For winegrowers, on the basis of this information, the fact of a pro-active approach will be useful for finding new suitable areas for the traditional varieties it could bring benefits for the maintanance of the quality of certain wines.

- The introduction of new varieties could open a new market

Conclusions by virtue of the climatic change and the impact on viticulture and on wine.

The studies made underline the necessity and the ulterior evaluation of the effects of the local climatic conditions, on the expected quality of the wine and a careful evaluation of the market for the new varieties of grapes. From the research carried out one could speculate that amongst the evident facts emersed, there is the probability that the cellars which will want to maintain the current standards, will have to invest in land and new evaluations which could bring about the grabbing in a few years, if it has not already begun, of a race to buying and selling of suitable plots of land.

Adaptation has always been the only resource for survival for the planet and its inhabitants, it is certain that the apprehension connected to this research gives the tangible measure of how the human being still has not understood that only with a real global project, not only in the sector of viticulture, could it stop all this. Certainly it is not possible to go back, but we could avoid continuing with this style of life, which is causing irreversible damages to the Earth each day.


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