The Wine Industry & Climate Change

Every person, country, business and industry is experiencing the effects of climate change. Extreme weather conditions create shortages, transportation challenges, and so many other issues. It is unsurprising that winemaking, an industry so directly tied to agriculture, is feeling the brunt of global warming. In a recent episode of 60 minutes, Lesley Stahl sits with stakeholders from a few prominent and legacy vineyards to discuss the impact.

Her interview subjects indicate the particular results of the last year. For one, France recorded its smallest harvests ince 1957. As wine is the country’s second largest export industry, this impacted not only the vineyards and wineries, but the nation as a whole.

Christine Sevillano of Piot-Sevillano, a 10th generation French vineyard that survived many tumultuous times, including the French Revolution and two world wars, says that in 2021 the vineyard lost 90% of their harvest. Higher temperatures and extreme weather episodes devastated her region’s harvest.

“It rained in two or three days what it rained normally in one month” says Sevillano. Then, in June and July, the combination of rain and heat resulted in an exacerbated outbreak of funguses, contaminating the crop.

Piot-Sevillano is based in Champagne, but from 2021’s harvest, the winery will not be able to produce a single bottle of the region’s signature sparkling wine.

Meanwhile, in the other wine producing regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, harvests weren’t much better.

Jacques Lurton of Chateau La Louviere and several other wineries in Bordeaux says that vine disease has worsened across the country. The issue, he states, is the rising temperatures. “We don’t have winters anymore, almost,” he explains, “Cool conditions tend to kill the funguses or the disease […] normally, winter cleans the situation.” Without it, disease not only takes hold easier, but lasts longer.

Furthermore, frosts extend further into the growing season. According to 60 minutes, the spring frost was so severe last year that “winegrowers were on their knees lighting bales of hay and candles between their vines in a mostly futile attempt to protect their young buds.”

It’s been long understood that ‘global warming’ is a misnomer. France’s vineyards are experiencing extreme heat, drought, heavy rain, and unexpectedly late frosts. The extremities and abnormalities of the weather are textbook effects of climate change. Climatologists have studied the models and confirmed that most of these events and extremes wouldn’t occur, at least not to the same degree, in the absence of humans.

And the low harvests in France are hardly an outlier. As one of the leading wine producing regions, France’s struggles offer a strong perspective into the challenges facing wineries worldwide. 

Check out the “60 Minutes” episode and accompanying article from CBS to learn more about the immediate and lasting impact the changing climate is having across the industry.

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