April 21, 2013

What wine do we enjoy in 2050?

2050 seems very far away. What are your plans for then? Myself, I hope to continue enjoying good wines all the time up till then. And be healthy enough to keep exploring all corners of the world of wine. But which wine do I have in my glass in 2050 and where do I travel?

In the perspective of my wine cellar, I'm about 20 years ahead of today. But now we are talking about an even more remote future. 37 years will pass by before we have 2050. Normally, it is only advertisements about various pension schemes that remind us of a future as distant as that. However, not this time. Now it is about wine. A team of scientists from the US, China and Chile have looked into the future to see how climate change can affect viticulture (1).

The results are remarkable. In their worst scenario, RCP 8.5 (note below), the area suitable for growing wine grapes might decrease with 25% to 73% by 2050 depending on location. At a lesser impact (RCP 4.5) the figures state a decrease between 19% to 62%. The highest number 73% relates to mediterranean climate parts of Australia. In Mediterranean Europe the net decrease in area suitable for viticulture is 68% and in California the decrease is 60%.

Bordeaux, Rhône, Tuscany and Piedmont are classical wine regions, all facing the future risk of getting a too hot to be suitable for wine grape production. Likewise Stellenbosch in South Africa, Colchagua and Maipo in Chile and the inner, warmer parts of California and Australia. You only have to take a look at the red spots on the map below. Many old wine favourites are threatened.

There are more interesting facts on the map. Green colour, as well as red, represents the present areas of viticulture. However, in the green parts, we can still hope for continued grape production. The dark green areas are the ones we can be most certain about. Here there is a very high degree of consistency from the results of the 17 different climate models used by the researchers, more than 90%. For the lighter green areas, more than half of the models give the result that the area will be suitable for wine grape growing also in the future. Thus, all lovers of wine from the Loire valley can calm down. The lighter green colour also covers parts of California, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

But maybe, in our twilight years, the stem will be filled with wine from a completely new viticultural area. The blue areas indicate where grape growing could be established successfully. Northern Europe is high on the list with a 99% increase of the suitable net area. In New Zealand and western North America, the growth is even higher with 168% and 231% respectively.

However, we can note that viticulture already today is successful in many of the blue areas . The used models and assumptions have not considered that many areas in the blue Germany have produced excellent wines for many centuries.

Myself, I find the pale blue border around the coasts of southern Sweden interesting. Maybe I could have a really nice, fine Bohuslän west coast wine in my glass in the year of 2050.


RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathways. The RCP:s describe four different scenarios of  greenhouse gas concentration development over time. They are used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and of other scientist making research about climate change. RCP 8.5 implies the highest impact, while RCP 4.5 represents the second lowest impact.

(1) Lee Hannah, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Makihiko Ikegami, Anderson V. Shepard, M. Rebecca Shaw, Gary Tabor, Lu Zhi, Pablo A. Marquet, and Robert J. Hijmans (2013), Climate change, wine, and conservation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; PNAS 2013: 1210127110v1-201210127.

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