Any change in the earth’s temperature could slash the amount of areas on the planet capable of growing and sustaining existing wine varieties, a study released Monday suggests.
This is because wine grapes are extremely sensitive to the changes in temperature and season.
“In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture because these grapes are so climate-sensitive,” said study co-author Benjamin Cook of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
The study was conducted by combining long-term records with global data on where different wine grapes are planted, USA Today reports. The 11 varieties of wine grape chosen included Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
Wine-growing regions that are already warm now – such as Italy, Spain and Australia – will see the largest losses as the planet heats up.
But the scientists say cooler wine-growing regions in countries like Germany, New Zealand and the U.S. Pacific Northwest could be relatively unscathed and ultimately change their grape varieties to mirror the changes in climate.
Increasing diversity within crops may be a powerful way to reduce agricultural declines from climate change, which is why the team behind the study said the glass was not necessarily half empty, the Guardian reports.
Ignacio Morales-Castilla, the co-author from the University of Alcalá, Spain, said: “The positive message is that we can still adapt viticulture to climate change – and diversity is a very interesting tool to do that. But the warning … is we should limit warming [as much as] possible, because the more warming we have, the fewer options for adaptation.”
The study has limitations, including the fact it only looks at a handful of the more than 1,100 varieties of wine grape. Morales-Castilla suggested other varieties might offer greater potential for adaptation as the climate continued to heat up.
The team said mitigation efforts were not without their problems: replanting or regrafting vineyards is expensive. There are also complex rules about how wines are labelled: for example, the name “champagne” can legally be used only if the sparkling wine comes from the Champagne region of France.
However, switching wine grape varieties could come with significant legal, cultural and financial challenges, USA Today added.
“Conversations in Europe have already begun about new legislation to make it easier for major regions to change the varieties they grow,” said study co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
“But growers still must learn to grow these new varieties,” she said. “That’s a big hurdle in some regions that have grown the same varieties for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they need consumers who are willing to accept different varieties from their favorite regions.”
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.