How the wine industry can adapt to desertification

With droughts predicted to become increasingly severe and frequent, how can the wine industry adapt to these changing conditions? Nenad Trifunovic reflects on the challenges the wine industry is facing.

The agricultural industry has always been among the first to feel the effects of climate events. In 2022, the consequences of droughts, fires and rising desertification are being felt more than ever.

Even though these natural events have featured in ecosystems for centuries, recent decades have seen the frequency and severity of droughts rise to alarming levels. Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts has risen by 29 percent.1 Such extreme climate conditions directly impact all agricultural production, particularly the wine industry, altering the timing and conditions of the harvest season, and even changing the taste of the grapes.

The wine industry is facing more challenges than ever. The top concerns globally include more frequent and longer-lasting heatwaves, either too little or too much rain, and extreme weather events. These climatic changes directly affect the wine growing process, the grapes themselves, the composition of the wine and, as a result, its taste. Once prestigious vineyards are now suffering as they struggle to continue to produce their prized and much acclaimed fruit. It’s already questionable how many of the Grand Cru positions have been able to maintain their finest expression of a particular wine in these conditions.

Another issue is that the environmental shifts are leading to early budding. This increases the risk of spring frost damage, while summer heatwaves make the grapes hibernate instead of ripening evenly. Equally, harvests are starting earlier year upon year, which causes the chemical composition of the grapes to become unbalanced to the point where their aromatics and complexities are significantly reduced.