For winemakers, climate is one of the most important elements that goes into the finest wines in the world. Taking into account everything from temperature to soil quality to the number of consecutive days without frost, the weather has a deep impact on the grapes produced by the sensitive vines. But thanks to global climate change, places like Sweden and Quebec might soon have some of the best winemaking climates in the world.
As global temperatures rise, some regions considered cold now might be able to easily grow Vinis vinifera grape vines, which produce some of the most renowned wines in the world. Pinot noir, cabernet and chardonnay are all varietals wrung from this single species. Vinis vinifera, however, is a picky plant: frost and cold weather can easily kill the vine and damage the grape’s flavor profile, both of which are quite common in Canada. But places like Quebec could be prime winemaking territory as early as 2050, Nick Rose reports for Vice Munchies.
“You need to have at least 150 days without frost for hybrid vine and 165 days for early ripening Vitis vinifera if you want to be commercially viable,” climate scenario specialist Phillippe Roy tells Rose. “Based on our projections, there is the chance that we could grow early-ripening variations of Vitis vinifera grapes like pinot noir, riesling, and chardonnay.”
Most of Quebec’s vineyards rely on hybrid vines that have been bred to survive the harsh northern winters as regular temperature drops below minus four degrees Fahrenheit make it harder for the fragile Vinis vinifera to thrive. As it is, winemakers who can’t or don’t want to splurge on ways to keep their fields warmer (like hiring helicopters to hover over their vineyards at night) rely more on the harsher, more acidic grapes, Rose writes.
“When you grow the hybrid varietals, the quality is just not the same as vinifera. There’s no arguing it,” Quebecois wine expert Bill Zacharkiw tells Rose. “Hybrids generally have higher acidities. They can be really good but part of the problem with being a young wine industry is that you have to discover the best way to work with these kinds of grapes.”
Quebec isn’t the only region whose wine industry might benefit from climate change. While the Swedish wine industry is only about 20 years old, winemakers have noticed dramatic changes in the growing seasons length, David Crouch writes for The Guardian.
Now that summers are getting warmer and longer, they both have more time to grow grapes and some of those grapes are getting riper earlier. “It is clear that we now have an extra month in the growing season each summer,” Håkan Hansson, who owns a vineyard outside of Malmö, tells Crouch. “There have been changes even since we started with grapes 15 years ago, when we didn’t enjoy the warm Septembers we have today. Some growers are harvesting five or six weeks earlier than they used to, even at the end of August.”
While this may be good news for fledgling vineyards in the colder parts of the world, more established regions are finding ways to keep their vineyards from being scorched by extreme heat. Shiraz producers in Australia’s McLaren Vale, for example, are now adapting to changes in their ecosystem by looking for new varietals from the Mediterranean or experimenting with new irrigation methods. Even as the climate shifts around the world, sommeliers can rest assured that they will still have their wine cellars stocked, whether their bottles come from Napa or Quebec.