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Climate change endangers 70 percent of world’s wine regions: Study

Rising global temperatures could decimate global wine production over the new few decades, according to a study published Tuesday in the science journal Nature.

Researchers estimated that as much as 70 percent of the world’s suitable regions for wine will become too warm this century, including as much as 90 percent of wine’s best traditional regions in Spain, Italy, Greece and Southern California.

Increasing temperatures reduce grape crops and the quality of wine, leading to lessened production over time. The effects will be felt most immediately in already warm regions, the researchers said, focusing on Southern California, the southern Mediterranean, South Africa and Australia.

But more moderate climates like California’s renowned Napa Valley and the winemaking regions of France will also likely take a hit, though to a lesser extent.

“Climate change is affecting grape yield, composition and wine quality. As a result, the geography of wine production is changing,” researchers wrote in the study. “The degree of these changes in suitability strongly depends on the level of temperature rise. Existing producers can adapt to a certain level of warming. … However, these adaptations might not be enough to maintain economically viable wine production in all areas.”

Warmer weather has already begun moving grape harvests earlier into the year by about two to three weeks on average worldwide in the past 40 years, the researchers said. Earlier harvests can change a wine’s flavor profile and impact quality.

Climate change has also increased the risk of drought and wildfires, extreme weather that could have massive impacts on year-to-year harvests and quality. That impact is the most important for California’s wine industry, the experts said, noting that California wine lands may degrade by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.

However, there is a silver lining for some parts of the world. As warmer climates get phased out of high-quality wine production, formerly cooler areas become more suitable.

Researchers identified the Pacific Northwest, Northern Germany and Scandinavia as some areas which could see booming wine production in coming decades.

The study estimated that as much as 25 percent of current wine production regions could actually see better production due to warmer climate, in addition to making new areas suitable.

Researchers emphasized that the changing climate does not mean the end for wine, merely that its geographical range is changing.

“Without radical adaptation, some of these regions are clearly threatened. Change also brings with it opportunities, as some regions will benefit, and new wine regions will surely emerge,” the study reads. “However, these changes are not without consequences either, and expanding viticulture could bring with it impacts on natural resource consumption and wild habitats.”

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