How Will Climate Change Affect Wine Production?

Wine may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the many effects of climate change, but vineyards all over the world are already experiencing disruption. 

From overly ripe grapes to destroyed vines, wine producers must learn to adapt – and so do consumers.

To better understand the changes in the most prominent wine regions worldwide, we’ve looked at the data to understand which areas will be most negatively affected, and where there will be opportunities for new wine-producing regions.

The Relationship between Weather and Wine

Climate has always been intrinsically linked with viticulture, with changes in temperature affecting grape ripeness, leading to differences between sweet and acidic flavours.

In warm regions such as Southern France, California, and Australia, gradual transitions between seasons allow grapes to ripen fully, losing more natural acidity to produce sweeter, fruitier flavours.

On the other hand, sudden shifts in temperature from summer to autumn mean that colder regions like Northern France, South Africa, and the United Kingdom produce more tart and acidic wines.

Vineyards across the world are reliant on their region’s climate to produce their characteristic flavour profiles, which is why changes in temperature and rainfall have a big impact on the world’s wine production.

How is Climate Change Affecting Vineyards?

Grapes are incredibly sensitive crops, affected by the smallest changes in temperature and moisture. Because of this, vineyards need a delicate balance of warmth (between 12–22 degrees Celsius during the growing season) and rainfall to produce quality wine, without being exposed to extreme heat or frost.

But climate change brings more intense summers, warmer winters, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and sudden frosts – which all change the way wine has been produced for many years.

Wine regions with signature flavours may change due to: - warming climates causing overly ripe grapes - dryer conditions affecting growth - colder temperatures destroying vines

It’s not all bad news, in the short term: some wine producers are benefiting from the changes in weather, such as in England where vineyards can thrive in the warmer conditions.

However, in other parts of the world, production has already been hit hard. In France, for example, some vineyards have already lost half their production due to wildfires and frost, and the country’s total output is predicted to drop by 29%.

Wine producers in all four corners of the world are having to adapt accordingly: growing new kinds of grapes, harvesting at different times of the year, or migrating to new areas.

How Will the World's Wine Map Change?

The good news is that the world’s wine map will keep expanding over the course of the 21st century, rather than contracting. However, the dichotomy between Old World Wine and New World Wine may become a thing of the past as the countries considered to be the birthplaces of wine as we know it today shift to new grape varieties, and new countries enter the fine wine scene.

In the Northern Hemisphere, historically colder climates are warming up and viticulture is heading northwards, where we are already seeing countries like Finland, England, and North Germany becoming new contenders in the fine wine industry. Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal) may still be able to grow certain grape varieties, but will struggle with water deficits and overheating. In the United States, we will find new opportunities for the Northwestern regions towards Canada, while vineyards in current cooler climates like Oregon will need to shift to new varieties more suited to raised temperatures. South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand will similarly need to adapt to warmer seasons and droughts while climate change ramps up.

The Future of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grapes are grown across the world, primarily in cooler climates. Temperature rises caused by climate change, combined with decreased rainfall, will limit the production of Pinot Noir in countries such as Argentina, Moldova, Italy, Slovenia, Georgia, Hungary, Kosovo, and Romania by 2040-2059. In France, Pinot Noir is commonly grown in Burgundy – arguably its most important region on earth. As Pinot Noir grapes bud in spring, vineyards will not cope well with earlier frosts in the Burgundy region.

On the other hand, vineyards in Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, and England will fare well throughout the century. European growers of Pinot Noir may turn to countries like Finland, Malta, and Liechtenstein to produce their wine by 2060, as these areas will have the ideal climate for the grape variety, along with Australia, South Africa, and Israel.

The Future of Chardonnay

The Chardonnay grape variety originated in Burgundy, but has become common in vineyards all over the world thanks to its relative ease of production.

As climate change intensifies, countries that will most struggle growing Chardonnay will include Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Slovakia, and Uruguay by 2040. On the other hand, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, and Israel will be least affected throughout the 21st century and will be able to grow Chardonnay country-wide.

On the bright side, changing temperature and precipitation levels will open new doors for Chardonnay growers. By 2040, South Africa and Malta will have ideal temperature and precipitation levels, followed by Norway in protected gulfs by 2060. As the century closes, new territories including Argentina, Pakistan, Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, and Jordan will also be able to grow Chardonnay nation-wide.

The Future of French Wine

For many, wine is synonymous with France itself. As one of the countries producing the most well-loved wines such as Red Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne, French wine stands to be one of the biggest “losers” of climate change.

French vineyards have long benefited from excellent soil, ideal precipitation levels, and historic winemaking traditions passed down through the generations. Currently, most of France has a cooler climate, producing light-bodied wines with nuanced acidic flavours. Our research suggests that this is likely to change due to warming temperatures and more extreme weather in the form of frosts and droughts.

Burgundy Wine

Burgundy is a cool-warm area, with vineyards that are very vulnerable to extreme weather: one late frost or bad storm can ruin the entire harvest. Due to changing patterns of airflow, there are already fewer warm, mild, and damp south-western winds and more extreme hot-cold and dry winds.

Unfortunately, global warming is threatening Burgundy wine as it is known and loved today, making it one of the most at-risk wine-producing regions of the world. Severe heat and decreased precipitation will cause problems of over-ripening and water stress, on top of more frequent and earlier frosts and hail.

Champagne Wine

As the name suggests, the Champagne region produces the world’s favourite sparkling wine, and an essential drink for important celebrations. Champagne is made with multiple grape varieties, including both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Like in Burgundy, rising temperatures will lead to over-ripening and limit the harvesting of Pinot Noir. Chardonnay grapes in the Champagne region will luckily not be as strongly affected by the changing climate, but the warmer temperatures will lead to less acidic and more fruity flavour profiles.

The Future of English Wine

England stands to be one of the countries that benefits most from climate change when it comes to wine production. Warmer, drier summers have already opened new doors for the winemaking industry in southern England, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be grown in limited quantities.

As these grape varieties become more difficult to grow in other countries, we may enter an exciting new era for English sparkling wine. That being said, wine producers will still be in the hands of the country’s famed unpredictable and damp climate, and may lose entire harvests in bad years.

The Future of Australian Wine

Currently, Shiraz makes up the majority of Australian wine production, followed closely by Chardonnay. This is unlikely to change in the coming decades, as Shiraz will maintain its status as the country’s staple wine. However, if the right soil conditions are met, Australian regions may become more suitable for growing Pinot Noir and Merlot by 2080. Tasmania is already growing in popularity for Australian winemakers looking to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as a cooler option compared to the mainland.

Adapting to a New Age of Wine Production

Even with a growing wine map, global warming is undeniably putting the world’s wine production at risk. Vineyards have always been vulnerable to unpredictable and extreme weather, and climate change only intensifies this. Destroyed vines, changed flavour profiles, and lower yields in certain areas such as Southern Europe are to be expected.

Winemakers aren’t sitting on their laurels, however! Across the world, viticulturists and wine producers are collaborating, exploring new technologies, and adapting to the changing climate.

As the world moves to more sustainable thinking, we can be sure of one thing: the coming decades promise to be transformative, as traditional wine-producing regions start growing more resilient varieties of grapes, more countries join the global industry, and wine-drinkers explore new offerings from around the world.

Methodology: Historical temperature and precipitation data worldwide was gathered from impactlab.org and Euromonitor International. Using the historical data, Honest Grapes created predictions of what will the world look like at the end of the century if the level of polluting emissions stays the same as the 2000-2020 period. Then Honest Grapes wine expertise combined with regional wine industry data were used to determine the ideal temperature and precipitation needs for the production of two of the world most well-known grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lastly, the data was used to map the migration throughout the century of vineyards producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.