On weather and wine.
Climate change is accelerating and we are seeing particularly dramatic impacts across the agriculture sector. One example — but certainly not the only one — is the global wine industry.
If there is a positive side to the uncontrolled changes to our planet, it would be this: Grapes are ripening quicker and more easily, which is resulting in wines that are fuller with higher levels of alcohol. As a result, harvests are happening earlier than ever before. In Burgundy, for example, wine growers are logging the earliest harvests in 700 years.
The warmer temperatures are also creating fruitful vineyards in areas that were previously considered too cool to produce a quality wine. For example, England is becoming a burgeoning source of quality sparkling wine. So much so, in fact, that the French champagne houses are buying property in the UK.
These factors are creating new opportunities in the global wine industry. However, the news is not all good. In fact, in many ways it is disastrous.
Wildfires in California, for example, are becoming increasingly volatile with every passing year. One of the most devastating was the Glass Fire in 2020, which scorched more than 67,000 acres — and damaged and/or destroyed structures at 30 wineries in the north. There were also countless vines that were affected by smoke taint, and even more that suffered sunburn due to rising temperatures before the fires started.
The west coast of the United States is currently experiencing an extreme heat wave. And, while California wildfire season is historically from June-November, it is said to be starting earlier and ending later each year.
In Europe, extreme rain and flooding is also threatening not only this year’s vintage, but the future of many small wineries. Wine regions in northwest Germany, famous for their Pinot Noir, were hit especially hard. The floods swept away farm equipment, damaged structures, and infiltrated wine cellars — which, along with creating a severe mildew problem, could potentially have contaminated the barrels. The complete impact of the damage cannot yet be quantified, but it is safe to assume that it may take some vineyards a long time to recover and rebuild, if they can at all.
Mildew is also encroaching upon wine regions in France, capping off a season that also saw frost, hail, and tornadoes.
In this day and age, we all have a responsibility to be mindful of our impact on the environment. Those of us in business, even more so. That’s why we must commit to operating sustainably, as well as supporting small and independent businesses and companies that are responsible stewards of our natural resources.
The climate is changing faster than many experts expected. Wine, while precious, is at risk, but so is our way of life.
Danilo Diazgranados is an investor, collector, and lover of fine wines and a member of the prestigious Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts.