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Scientists raise concerns about future of wine as vineyard threat expected to increase in coming years: 'Kind of the canary in the coal mine'

"This is very much a now problem."

"This is very much a now problem."

Photo Credit: iStock

Celebratory toasts could taste different in the future, as disruptions in the wine industry point to a concerning issue. 

Data from Silicon Valley startup ClimateAi suggests that around 85% of traditional wine-growing regions will be unable to produce grapes suited for their traditional products by 2050, as reported by NPR.

"Wine is kind of the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture because so much of the character of wine is tied to the local climate," Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the news outlet. 

Champagne, which is made only in the region of France after which it is named, is one of the popular drinks expected to be in trouble.

Chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the three types of grapes typically used in the blended sparkling wine, have all been affected by severe weather events, which have become more common as the result of an overheating planet. Flavor can be impacted as well.

"In a chardonnay grape, what you're looking for in a cooler climate is generally a taste that's apple or a little citrusy, whereas in a warmer climate the warmth can change the grapes qualities to be more like a tropical fruit, or even banana-like," ClimateAi head of wine and events Jasmine Spiess explained on NPR's Morning Edition. 

Some grape growers in Champagne saw as much as 90% of their crops destroyed in April 2021 when temperatures suddenly dropped below freezing overnight, according to France Today, which pointed out that the trend of higher temperatures was likely to blame. 

The outlet wrote that the "historically cool northern climate" has warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius (around 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 20 years, meaning that the vines were budding earlier than normal and moving up the harvest to earlier in the year. 

Meanwhile, some new wine-growing regions are emerging, according to Spiess, who told NPR's Morning Edition that Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden may have increasingly favorable conditions for producing wine.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota are among those who have been developing grapes to be more resilient to the effects of a changing climate, meaning some additional solutions could be around the corner.

However, transitioning away from dirty-energy fuels is still the best way to slow down rising temperatures driving the extreme weather, which contributed to the lowest level of wine production in 60 years in 2023, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine

"This is very much a now problem," ClimateAi vice president of operations and strategy Will Kletter told CNN in December. "That means more expensive wine, or maybe the wine that's produced is not of the same quality, and maybe you can't even access some of the wines that you're used to enjoying. And that's a problem that we're facing today."

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