Climate change could push up costs of wine production

Written by by Joey Blair, CNN

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Now, the tiny region in Switzerland’s Jura region is at the center of international attention — a region rich in climate change threats from wildfires to rising temperatures to agricultural devastation. The region is home to one of Europe’s most prestigious vineyards, with a reputation for high-quality winemaking and has played host to leaders of the international wine industry in recent decades.

With temperatures in the Jura heating up and rainfall declining, their vineyards are shrinking, and their ability to harvest and vinify locally-grown grapes is threatened.

A farm of displaced llamas, Gugniov in Jura.

For more than 100 years, the region has been largely spared from the ravages of fires — at least until last year, when a fast-moving blaze spread across vineyards within a few days. In August, the same high temperatures and dry conditions made for a particularly smoky season. This was the first time the region has experienced such extreme weather.

“Wine is the lifeblood of Jura,” Johan Leuw, president of the Jura Tourism Promotion Board, tells CNN. The region is renowned for producing two renowned brands, Chateau Latour and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The Jura also produces a wide array of wines, according to Leuw, and is where oak casks are loaded and others are taken out for the first time in the viticultural season.

In the Jura region, grapes are harvested to be preserved.

The summer heat is a particular problem. In late September, at Rouxiervatsch, the region’s renowned Chateau de Latour estate, temperatures rose above 43 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the day. It was on this same day that the region’s sole winemaker, Jacqueline Robespierre, experienced the length of heat waves many farmers throughout Europe are now accustomed to. She responded by adjusting her harvest, planting more grapes, and reducing storage periods to save as much wine as possible.

The end of the earth

This changes in climatic conditions is being felt in other parts of the global wine industry as well. According to Andy Wilby, publisher and reporter at Wine Insights , as the planet warms the production of conventional grapes will be reduced. One of the options, he says, is to make up for decreased yields with new varieties that can produce similar results.

Brasserie du Monptay in Jura, Switzerland.

Traditional single-varietal red wine will also be hard to find, as yields will be lowered. With warming temperatures, he explains, “you want to keep your soil warmer to allow longer development of plants to harvest.” He adds that pinot noir is the most critical wine in the coming years.

As global warming continues, Leuw predicts that the areas around the Swiss border to Italy, the Lyon/Villefranche-sur-Pont, will benefit greatly from a trend of “climate anomalies.” Some vineyards in the region will benefit greatly from climate change, but others will not, he says.

Others cannot survive the inevitable changes in local conditions. A property called Bismarck, located in the village of Brederbrung, is not far from the Jura region. Tom Schneider-Languier, a regional lecturer in viticulture from the University of Ticino in Switzerland, describes Bismarck as “the last piece of land left as a planned vineyard,” a property that lacks the existing infrastructure to do maintenance work on vines. The estate has only been owned by one family for the past 40 years.

Vineyards surrounding Bismarck in Switzerland.

As Schneider-Laurier says, “today a bush is (next to) a suburban development, tomorrow it’ll be under an apartment building, then another phase will follow, the next building.”

Every green space in Switzerland has to face the same challenges, he says, adding, “In a long term, if a green zone is not preserved, if the place is not subsidized or not developed, it’ll disappear.”

As Schneider-Laurier’s project begins to roll out, he is worried that his vineyard, “Yhey, the last remaining” will not survive.

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