What does the future hold for the wine industry in the face of climate change?
To shed light on the different strategies emerging among winegrowers, we take a look at the situation with the Fabre family, winegrowers in the Languedoc region, and Esther Crauser- Delbourg, former Director of Strategic Projects at AXA Millésime.
1- Preserving production methods: what if we don’t change anything?
The case of AOCs
A cage of quality and differentiation against a backdrop of international competition, the AOC label embodies the French cultural exception. Its strength lies in its rigorous specifications, which standardise and fix local wine production methods.
The problem? This strict framework, which is the strength of the AOC, also makes it incompatible with the notion of experimentation, which is so necessary if we are to adapt our practices to the urgency of climate change.
Protecting yourself against the vagaries of the weather: an effective but costly solution
Fortunately, winegrowers are not totally helpless when it comes to the vagaries of the weather. Protective solutions do exist, and they are quite effective (heaters to warm the air, water sprays to prevent frost, etc.).
On the other hand, as Esther Crauser- Delbourg explains, the impossibility of predicting the occurrence of extreme weather events considerably complicates their large-scale deployment; moreover, some are very expensive and are borne by the winegrower, accentuating inequalities between estates in terms of prevention and protection. The estates with the necessary resources manage to limit the damage. The others lose all or part of their harvest.
«Water shortages will widen the gap between large vineyards and smaller ones, which are less well covered by insurance and have less cash flow.» Esther Crauser-Delbourg
Finally, between crisis management and crop losses, failure to adapt always comes at a cost.
Wine is not what it used to be
You’d think that maintaining current viti- viniculture techniques would preserve wine as we know it. But this is not entirely true.
The wine we drink is already changing under the influence of climate change. And this is taking different forms depending on the region.
The recurrence of climatic disasters affects not only yields but also wine properties: it’s now not uncommon to drink red wines that are 14% alcohol or more when vintages have been been through a very hot period. Their structure is changing and some whites, too vulnerable, seem destined to disappear from our tables.
Will the vineyards of Bordeaux then disappear in favor of new northern estates? No, there will always be Bordeaux on our table,» say the Fabre family and Esther Crauser- Delbourg in unison, «but it will have a different production method and different characteristics. What’s more, in these southern areas which are more prone to the vchanging of the climate, if we don’t adapt, only the great estates will survive.