Climate change impacts on the Wine sector

Impacts of Climate change over grapes and wine: The Problem

VISCA is a R&D Project that integrates climate, agricultural and end-users specifications in order to design medium- and long-term adaptation strategies to climate change. The project is led by Meteosim and it is composed of 11 members from different fields including end-users (Codorniu in Spain, Mastroberardino in Italy and Symington in Portugal).

The 1st joint General Meeting and Stakeholders Workshop was held in Portugal in mid November. As a result of this meeting several interesting outputs were generated, and it was published an interview in this magazine (Revista “Jovens Agricultoresª nº112, page 22 and 23), so this is the first of a series of posts explaining those “early results” of VISCA projects, describing the climate change impacts on the wine sector:

Agriculture is a highly dependent sector on heat, sunlight and water, and therefore very sensitive to climate change. According to the current climate projections, weather events worldwide are very likely to become more extreme and frequent. In Europe, Southern countries will be frequently affected by heat waves, therefore making this region more vulnerable to droughts and wildfires, which will lead to economic, environmental, and even human losses.

In addition, Mediterranean countries are prone to undergo hydrological resources’ decrease, due to climate modification (lower precipitation rates) and demographic concentration changes. Agriculture happens to be the major land use of the earth, and this is expected to increase as population growth and diet changes may drive food needs up to 60 % by 2050. Although agriculture has shown ability to adapt to changing conditions, is very likely that the above projections overpasses agriculture´s adaptation limits.

Grape production is not different from the rest of agricultural activity, and they are likewise inherently interconnected to climate and weather, and, although grapes may grow worldwide, premium wine-grape production occurs in Mediterranean-like climate ranges. Changes in climate and weather patterns are threatening premium wine-grapes (i.e. decrease of the grape quality and quantity, undesirable changes in alcohol production, and acid and sugar concentrations), directly affecting the European wine industry.

Direct consequences is that summers are very warm and last long, with almost no rain, which gives rise to earlier harvesting dates, under higher temperatures, which directly affects the quality of the resulting wine.


How will VISCA Project address those impacts?

As a result of climate change, the anticipation of the phenological stages of the vineyard is commonly expected, with negative effects on the productivity and quality of the grapes. VISCA intends to help the vine grower using several approaches:

  • Integrating several data sources such as end-users requirements, soil properties
  • vineyards characterisation together with meteorological (short- and medium-term) forecasts, irrigation and agricultural models into a Geo-Spatial database.

All this information will be supplied to the Decision Support System, which will forecast the optimum harvesting dates, and compare it with the current state of the life cycle of the vineyards. If this period is out of ideal conditions, it will suggest end-users crop management actions to apply to adjust the life cycle of the vineyard:

  • crop forcing
  • canopy management
  • to adapt other orchard management practices (mainly irrigation) to fit harvest time with high quality grapes