- REUTERS/ Kim Kyung Hoon
The global winemaking map could soon change forever.
Rising temperatures are threatening some of France’s most esteemed wine-growing regions, researchers from NASA and Harvard discovered in a study published earlier this month in the journal Nature.
The study found that hotter climates have made early grape harvests more frequent in France.
That’s generally a good thing – warmer climates lead to faster grape maturation, and higher-quality wines. But in the next few decades, global warming could make regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy completely inhospitable for its signature grapes.
And France isn’t the only country affected. A 2013 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicted that as much as 73% of today’s wine-growing land will be lost to climate change by the year 2050.
As Old-World wine bastions like France, Spain and Italy start overheating, previously unthinkable regions will suddenly become the world’s next wine hotspots.
Take a look at where the great wines of the future could be coming from:
- Ningxia Bureau of Grape and Floriculture
China is undertaking a multibillion-dollar project to transform its Ningxia desert region into a wine oasis.
There are about 50 wineries in Ningxia, which is about 500 miles west of Beijing.
The region boasts 80,000 acres of vineyards, and that number is expected to more than double by 2020, according to CBS News. That would triple the acreage of California’s famed Napa Valley.
Within the next 20 years, Chinese consumption of wine is expected to exceed that of the US, making it the top wine-consuming nation in the world, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, like any other emerging wine market, it could take a while before consumers around the world take Chinese wine seriously, said Gregory Jones, an environmental studies professor at Southern Oregon University.
“If we see Chinese wine on our shelves in the US, do we buy it? How long does it take before we trust that product?” Jones told Business Insider. “Until they reach a place where they can produce enough where they can market it to another region, it’s going to be difficult.”
- Wine Virtuosity
While most of Sweden is far too chilly to support grapevines, a softening climate has opened the door for vineyards along the southern coast.
There are 330 grape-growing farms and counting in this traditionally vodka-drinking nation, according to a Södertörn University researcher.
“It is clear that we now have an extra month in the growing season each summer,” winemaker Håkan Hansson told The Guardian.
Still, Swedish viticulturists face more than just climatic challenges – the nation’s strict alcohol laws forbid vineyards from selling their bottles on-site.
- Flickr Creative Commons
Montana boasts just eight wineries now, but PNAS researchers expect the western half of the state to be a player in the wine scene by 2050.
“I’ve been growing grapes here 15-plus years, and I’ve seen a distinct warming pattern,” said Andy Sponseller, co-owner of the Missoula, Montana-based Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery, according to The Missoulian.
“We had three 26-degree days after May 13. We had two sub-freezing days in mid-September,” Sponseller said. “Fifteen years ago, it was not unusual to have those after Labor Day, but in the past 10 years, that’s become an erratic event.”
- Wikimedia Commons
New Jersey has the seventh largest wine industry in the United States, and wine experts say rising temperatures will help the state climb the ranks.
Gary Pavlis, an agricultural agent at Rutgers University, said more and more vintners are taking the risk of planting warm-climate grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
“Twenty-five years ago, we basically said it was too cold to grow vinifera north of the southern three or four counties,” Pavlis told Business Insider, referring to the species of grape used to make most wine. “And now we’re growing vinifera all the way up to northern New Jersey.”
There are about 50 wineries operating in New Jersey’s three designated American Viticultural Areas.
- Flickr Creative Commons/Alex Proimos
The overall number of wineries in Australia may be dropping, but winemaking is on the rise in Australia’s southernmost state.
“As the world heats, Tasmania’s very well-positioned because of the cooler climate,” said David Dearie, chief executive of Tasmania’s Treasury Wine Estates, according to The Guardian.
Australia is already the world’s fourth-largest producer of wine, with a yearly output of 750 million liters. Traditionally, the country’s wine comes from its southern and eastern coasts, but global warming is pushing vineyards off the mainland and onto the isolated island 150 miles south.
Brown Brothers, a winery in the nearby southern state of Victoria, cited global warming as the reason for its $30 million purchase of nearly 1,000 acres of Tasmanian land in 2010.
Tasmania has a long way to go to match the production of mainland Australia. The island was responsible for less than 1% of Australia’s total wine output in 2014, according to the nonprofit Wine Tasmania.
- Flickr Creative Commons
England’s climate is warming faster than the global average, and there’s no question that the country’s wine industry is reaping the benefits.
Once limited to cool-climate grapes like Huxelrebe and Dornfelder, English viticulturists are taking advantage of the unseasonable weather by planting Merlot, chardonnay and other mainstream varietals.
Imperial College London geology professor Richard Selley predicts that by 2080, such varietals will flourish throughout much of England, while its southern coast will heat up so much that it won’t be suitable for anything but raisins.
Still, England is decades away from competing with the wine powerhouses of the world. The country’s 135 wineries produce just 6.3 million bottles of wine a year, according to the English Wine Producers organization. (The outputs of France and Italy are measured in billions, for comparison.)
Data suggest that even Britons themselves have yet to warm up to English wine – domestic vintages make up just 1% of the market, according to The New York Times.
African wine production is largely confined to South Africa, however a few countries closer to the equator are trying to enter the scene.
Ethiopia, with its high, central plateaus and temperate climate, could be uniquely capable of giving South Africa a run for its money. PNAS researchers predict small pockets of central Ethiopia will have increased suitability for wine grape-growth by 2050.
French beverage company Castel Group – the largest wine producer in Europe – struck a deal with the Ethiopian government in 2007, planting 750,000 vines of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and chardonnay grapes near the Rift Valley town of Ziway.
The company celebrated the production of its first 1.2 million bottles in 2014, according to The Guardian.
However, producing wine in Ethiopia comes with its own challenges: Castel must surround its vineyards with a two-meter-wide trench to deter pythons, hippopotamuses and hyenas, The Guardian reported.
- Getty Images/Alexander Aksakov
Perhaps the most surprising location on the map is the notoriously frigid, vodka-loving nation of Russia.
But not only are large swaths of western Russia expected to become suitable for wine grape-growing by 2050, Russians may also have the thirst to support a burgeoning industry.
Russia’s wine imports from neighboring Georgia are skyrocketing, up 154% in the first two months of 2016, Newsweek reported via Georgia’s National Wine Agency.
Meanwhile, sales of hard liquor in the world’s largest country are falling across the board.