Climate Change, Winter Storms, and the Future of European Wine

Climate Change, Winter Storms, and the Future of European Wine
Flood-affected vineyards in Langoiran, Western France, on Feb. 1, 2014
Photograph by Jean Pierre Muller/AFP via Getty Images

By 2050 French and Italian vineyards will lose out to new ones in more northerly England and Germany.
By 2050 French and Italian vineyards will lose out to new ones in more northerly England and Germany.
Source: l. Hannah et al/PNAS 2013; Map: Nightstallion/Wikimedia Commons, adapted by S. Egts via Science News

You may have trouble believing that today’s mammoth snow-and-ice storm on the East Coast has anything to do with climate change, even though there’s strong scientific evidence that global warming makes erratic weather in the U.S. more likely by disrupting the jet stream.

But while you stare out the window wondering when a snowplow is going to come along, just be glad you aren’t a French or Italian winemaker. A cover story in Science News offers an in-depth look at how by 2050 climate change will render big parts of Italy, France, and Spain—the world’s three biggest wine producers—less suitable for growing wine grapes.

Wines such as sauvignon blanc and merlot will still be made, just in new parts of the world. “Some wine producers in Champagne or Bordeaux are already moving north and setting up vineyards in southern England,” which has similarly chalky soil, writes Susan Gaidos in an article with the headline “Grape Expectations” (oof). Gaidos details the findings of a team, led by climatologist Lee Hannah, that reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last April that “some of the best places to grow wine grapes in 2050 will overlap with panda habitat in China, as well as regions north of Yellowstone National Park where land is being set aside for bears, antelope, mountain lions and other species.” (The map above comes from their article.)

This presents a dilemma of the highest order to right-thinking wine sippers: pandas or pinot noir? Mountain lions or merlot? Black bears or Bordeaux? Something to ponder on a snow day.

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