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Richard Smart Climate Change and Wine 4

This show was published 21 March 2008


Dr Richard Smart is a world-leading viticulturist and canopy management specialist. We ask how climate change will affect current wine regions.

The wine world is the product of a couple of hundred years of stable temperatures with regions in the old world that have developed reputations for distinct grape varieties, for example Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon. But what happens when the climate changes? After a succession of warmer vintages will they be arguing the merits of different grapes - Grenache instead of Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux for example. Climate change means we either change the region or the varieties. In the cooler regions we'll grow the grapes that are grown in current warm regions. Warm regions will grow what the present hot regions are growing and so on. Hot regions are the real problem - in Spain, South Africa, Australia, California. With global warming the areas suitable for growing grapes will contract.

Predictions are that as well as average temperatures getting higher they will be more variable. It's the extreme heat that does the damage. At higher temperatures the vines don't create flavour compounds as they do at cooler temperatures. But, we have plenty of time to breed vines. For the past 50 years Germany has been breeding grapes for cooler climates. You can now grow vines commercially in Denmark so we should be able to breed vines suited for hot climate regions.

The countries that will lose out are the Northern Hemisphere countries. South hemisphere has more ocean so less global warming. Those that will do best are Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Tasmania and parts of Australia.


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The music used for the UK Wine Show is Griffes de Jingle 1 by Marcel de la Jartèle and Silence by Etoile Noire.

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