When tackling the issues of climate change, the art of growing and cultivating wine is overlooked. Connoisseurs and social sippers the world over, though, would certainly miss reds, whites, and roses if the world became inhospitable for vineyards that make them.
As average temperatures increase, wine grapes ripen earlier in the year. This leads to higher acidity, compromised flavor and bouquet, and increased alcohol content, which, despite what you might think, is actually a bad thing. Many vineyards and wineries have been perfecting their grapes and products for generations, and the change in climate is affecting them much like other crops.
Agroforestry for wine
A potential solution to the vineyards has been found in Southern France, near Montpellier. Rather than changing the types of grapes and thereby the types of wine they make, some producers are growing trees along their rows of vines.
This process is called agroforestry, somewhat similar to permaculture. It involves integrating trees and shrubs into crop patches. The trees provide shade from harsh sunlight, offer insulation in colder months, and act as a windbreak. They also reduce the amount of evaporation from the crops, and foliage from certain trees and other added shrubs offer leaf fall which turns to mulch in the soil, further nutrifying the crops.
In France, some vineyards have adopted planted pine trees alongside their trellised Grenache and Syrah vines. Pines are perennials and remain leafy all year, protecting the seasonal crops, and optimizing the temperature for the fruit while also sequestering additional carbon from the atmosphere.
France and Europe have been experiencing increasing heat waves which have made wine production difficult in what was once the ideal climate for it. This introduction of agroforestry, however, has enabled some producers to stay in business, keep their grapes, and even add to their profile.
The yield of grapes is benefitted by the planting of the pines because the type of pine trees used attracts a variety of helpful insects. There have also been lower instances of mildew, and an increase in tannins has even improved the quality of the wine in some cases.
These agroforestry vineyards have not only adapted to the changing climate but have also improved their quality while helping the planet.