Nav: Home

Switching grape varieties can help save world's wine-growing regions: UBC study

January 27, 2020

Hotter temperatures threaten global wine production, with multiple studies now forecasting that more than half of regions suitable to planting wine grapes could be lost to climate change.

But not all is lost: swapping out grapes for more drought and heat tolerant varieties can offer a way forward for winemakers, finds new research from the University of British Columbia and other collaborating institutions.

"Substituting Grenache or Cabernet Sauvignon for Pinot Noir, planting Trebbiano where Riesling is grown--these aren't painless shifts to make, but they can ease winegrowers' transition to a new and warmer world," says the study's senior author Elizabeth Wolkovich, a professor of forest and conservation sciences at UBC who studies resilience strategies for agricultural and forest ecosystems.

Wine grapes are extremely sensitive to climate, especially temperature. Combining long-term records with global data on where different wine grapes are planted, the research team showed that if global temperatures rise by an average of two degrees Celsius--in line with current trends--at least 51 per cent of current winegrowing regions could be wiped out.

"These estimates, however, ignore important changes that growers can make. We found that by switching to different varieties, vintners can lessen the damage, to just 24 per cent of areas lost. For example, in Burgundy, France, vintners can consider planting more heat-tolerant varieties such as Syrah and Grenache to replace the dominant Pinot Noir. And growers in regions such as Bordeaux may swap out Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for Mourvedre," notes Wolkovich.

There's a caveat. Diversification will have less impact if temperatures rise more than two degrees. "At four degrees, around 77 per cent of all areas may be lost, and planting new varieties will limit this to 58 per cent losses. Winegrowing regions can adapt to a lower level of warming, but at higher warming, it's much harder to save regions," says lead author Ignacio Morales-Castilla, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Wolkovich lab, now with University of Alcalá in Spain.

The research team focused on 11 of the most popular varieties of wine grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chasselas, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre (also known as Monastrell), Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Trebbiano (also known as Ugni Blanc). Using long-term records, they built models for when these varieties typically bud, flower and ripen and then used climate change projections to forecast where these varieties can be grown in the future.

The study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, acknowledges there are legal and cultural hurdles in shuffling grape varieties around.

"The effectiveness of any strategy depends on both the grape growers and people in general. Consumers who are willing to try new varieties can play a big part in helping save the regions people love. Legislation can encourage growers to test out new varieties. And ultimately, people can make the largest impact through work to reduce emissions globally," says Wolkovich.

Filling in data gaps is also critical for developing crop resilience strategies. "Wine grapes possess tremendous diversity, but much of that diversity is still not well-documented or used by growers globally," says Morales-Castilla. "Adapting the results to specific regions also requires finer scale data, and more research."

"We're just starting to try applying these results to the Okanagan region," adds Wolkovich, "but it requires understanding climate at a vineyard-scale and working with growers to understand what's feasible for them."
Other authors on the paper include: Benjamin Cook from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Iñaki García de Cortázar-Atauri and Thierry Lacombe of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique; Amber Parker of Lincoln University, New Zealand; Cornelis van Leeuwen of Bordeaux Sciences Agro; and Kimberly A. Nicholas of Lund University.


Grape forecasts at 2°C warming

The researchers see late-ripening varieties such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre becoming much more widespread in current winegrowing regions if temperatures rise two degrees. Early ripening varieties such as Chasselas, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay may become more widespread globally if new more poleward regions (for example, Canada, northern Europe and Tasmania) open up.
  • Pinot or Chasselas would decrease in the region including Burgundy, but could be replaced by Mourvedre (a.k.a. Monastrell), Grenache or Syrah

  • In the region including Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot could also be replaced by Mourvedre

  • In Germany, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest there are no major losses but currently unsuitable late-ripening varieties (Merlot, Mourvedre, Grenache) would significantly increase their suitability

  • In the United Kingdom, the number of suitable varieties would increase from zero to five

  • Most of the classic varieties of the region including Napa and Sonoma (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot and Merlot) hold on at 2°C warming

  • In South Africa, varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir would be lost. They do not appear to be replaced by newly suitable varieties, instead late-ripening varieties such as Grenache and Mourvedre would still be suitable at 2°C warming

  • In New Zealand, the number of suitable varieties would double.

University of British Columbia

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.