As I write this, many of the world’s leaders and their support teams are meeting in Glasgow at the COP26 Conference to discuss climate change and what can be done to limit its impact on our planet. Although undoubtedly a serious problem for us, it’s one that, without urgent action, could prove catastrophic to the generations that follow us. It will be interesting to see how those attending face up to their enormous responsibility.
The problem isn’t new and many parts of the world have already been badly affected by climate change. The wine industry hasn’t escaped, of course; wildfires in the USA and Australia and serious flooding in Germany have affected vineyards and wineries and these are just a few of the most serious examples.
But, for more than 2 decades now, many vineyard owners have noticed changes; their grapes are ripe enough to harvest weeks earlier than they used to be. As a result, in some of the world’s warmer vine growing areas, producers are looking to plant at higher altitudes to benefit from the cooler conditions that may be available there. Elsewhere, drought is causing real problems and may result in some vineyards, particularly those that rely on irrigation, becoming unviable; at the very least, different, more heat- and drought-resistant varieties will need to be introduced, as Bordeaux, for example, have already decided to do.
Conversely, areas like Germany and Britain, who, in the past have struggled to ripen grapes sufficiently for quality wine, are now finding perfect conditions. How long before northern Canada and Scandinavia become centres of vine growing excellence?
But the wine industry must also look at itself. The fermentation process that creates wine releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere (admittedly, in relatively small quantities) and its use of bottles – sometimes unnecessarily heavy bottles – and their transportation around the world clearly has an impact.
For the sake of the planet and, especially, for future generations, I hope that something positive comes out of the Conference and not just words. Any promises must be followed by real action. I have to say, sadly, that I’m not confident.