Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde.
Despite the inept opinion of some not-so-brilliant minds like Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, who believes that climate change is a scientific dogma influenced by a Marxist culture that wants to disrupt the West and favor China (a thesis published in his personal blog in October, 2018), the fact is that with or without Karl Marx global warming and climate change have been taking hold over the last few years.
In the wine industry the impact of climate change and global warming deserves great concern. After all, the tradition of wine production is intrinsically linked to terroir, that is, the set of all environmental factors that affect the phenotype of a crop, including unique environmental contexts, agricultural practices, and a crop-specific growth habitat. The concept of terroir is so important for wine production that a whole classification system was formed around factors such as sun exposure as well as thermal amplitude during seasons in the meso and microclimate of a small plot of land as a vineyard.
To give a clearer picture of the effects of global warming and climate change on the quality of wine produced, the main factors affecting wine quality are present in the fruit. Factors such as acidity, sugar levels and phenolic compounds together with agricultural management methods are directly and mainly related to the quality of the soil, the incidence of sunlight, temperature, pluviometric levels etc. When climatic changes of this magnitude occur we may have unsatisfactory levels in fruit maturity and consequently changes in wine quality forcing complex decisions in order to preserve the level of quality such as anticipation of harvest, for example.
These changes that we are experiencing in the climatic conditions may change the definition of what we consider to be the best area for planting a vineyard or even the best grape variety to plant in a certain region. In the northern region of Italy where Franciacorta sparkling wine is produced, global warming has made it difficult to reach the optimal acidity level to maintain the typicality of that terroir. One of the ways to mitigate the effects of global warming has been to plant new vineyards at higher altitudes in search of cooler temperatures ranges. But it is already known that in order to maintain the characteristics of Franciacorta, producers will have to change the grape variety and now studies have been promoted with other autochthonous varieties that better adapt to the new climatic conditions.
In regions such as Barolo and Barbaresco where the price of hectare of land can reach 4 million euros, the impact of global warming can be devastating. The classification of the best plots for the production, which resulted in the classification of the “crus” of the region, is directly related to climatic conditions such as sun exposure and thermal amplitude. How can we predict the influence of these changes on the final quality of the wines and what is the possible impact of a reclassification of the best plots for the planting of the Nebbiolo grape in the region’s economy? The same can happen with Bourgogne wine classification in France.
Invariably, if climate change continues to impose itself with the same intensity and speed, I believe that the final result will be noticed in bottles, which will force a reassessment of quality concepts that guide the geographical demarcation of the best plots of land for wine production not only in Europe, but around the world.
Early indications of the need for such a reassessment may be noted in the results of blind tastings in major contests that wines not classified as “crus” have achieved higher positions each year.