The majority of the world's wine-producing regions have experienced growing season warming trends in the last 20 years. Vintage quality ratings have increased significantly while year-to-year variation has declined. While winemaking has changed and husbandry practices may have improved, climate has, and will continue to have, a significant role in quality variations.
Currently, many European regions appear to be at or near their optimum growing season temperatures and in a bow to climate change reversing centuries of tradition, French wine regulators have now approved the use of vineyard irrigation to rescue regions suddenly too hot for dry farming. Greg Jones, wine and climate change expert from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and son of a vineyard owner, has focused his research and documented climate change impacts on wine production. Under projected future climates, he showed global wine producing regions undergoing an average warming of 2 degrees celsius in the next 50 years. This means that a climatic threshold may be exceeded in regions such as Spain and Australia such that the ripening of balanced fruit required for existing varieties and wine styles can become difficult. But impacts of climate change are likely to be heterogeneous across varieties and regions. Future climate change could push some regions into more optimal climatic regimes for the production of current varietals and dry German wines, English wines (yes, they exist) and Canadian wines have certainly benefited from the warming in the last 20 years. In addition, warmer conditions could lead to more poleward locations potentially becoming more conducive to grape growing and wine production and Spanish vintners are studying whether they can plant vineyards in the cooler foothills of the Pyrenees while Belgium, Denmark and Sweden are jumping into viticulture. A quick overview of the latest findings will make you want to invest in the next vintage, no doubt another "best of the century".