Whether you believe the climate is changing or not, the one thing we know for sure is that it is getting hotter in a lot of areas, and because of that we are seeing some major changes to the way wine is and the way it was only even thirty years ago. For the longest time, wine makers were celebrating the climate getting warmer, because it brings about better yields and quality of wine, and even alcohol content. The problem is, we can’t control just how hot it is going to get, and eventually too much heat starts to kill things.
One of the bigger hits to Arizona and California wine in the past decade is on alcohol content alone. The average bottle of Bordeaux was around 12.5% of alcohol content back in 1990. A bottle today reaches right around 16%, and that wine is one of the lower ones hit. Zinfandels in California have seen upwards of 30% increases in alcohol content.
This is all caused because when grapes get sun they produces sugars and sugars are what become alcohol in the fermentation stage. It’s gotten so bad that some wineries will actually downplay how much alcohol is actually in their wine because higher alcohol contents in wine are not actually a good thing to sell. People buy wine so they can drink a lot of it over an evening or a few days, not to have one glass and be done.
And unfortunately that isn’t all, with all the hot weather we also end up with times when entire harvests of grapes just don’t receive any cool down time, to unwind with the cool weather. This leads to wines that end up more acidic and far less sweet, and a good wine manages to balance both. It may not seem like much, but a change in climate like that results in your Pinot Noir’s tasting more like your Zinfandels and then no one is happy!
So although the wine industry isn’t going to be ruined by the weather change, it will certainly affect it to such a degree that we will end up with wineries in places where they aren’t now, and that will cost money to move them and in turn make wine even more expensive. So what can we do to fix that?