Coping with climate change Enology & Viticulture Conference

Frompestmanagement and water supply to energy efficiency, wine industry faces numerous challenges.

By Susan McIver

lexibility—in the vineyard, in the winery and, most important, in thinking—is the key to success for the wine industry in the face of climate change, according to Matthias Schmitt. He warned of the potential for conflicts in the international market due to the greater flexibility of thinking among “newcomers in the family of wine producing countries” to meet climate challenges compared to the more tradition-bound attitudes of “old world’ wine producers.


James Allen, left, with FortisBC, and Matthias Schmitt, of Geisenheim University in Germany, participate in panel discussion on climate change and sustainability.

the percentage of red versus white wine, the extent of cooling, stabilization, and equipment and size.

Schmitt, of Germany’s Geisenheim University, participated in a panel discussion on climate change and sustainability in relation to enology and the business of wine held at July’s Enology & Viticulture Conference in Penticton.

“Climate change predictions for the Okanagan include 24 more growing degree days by 2020 and 457 by 2050. Frost-free days will increase by 21 by 2020 and 38 by 2050,” said panel organizer Kellie Garcia.

Garcia is program manager for Sustainable Winegrowing B.C., which offers online self-assessments, access to educational resources and training to help vineyards and wineries adopt sustainable practices.

In general, the summers will become warmer and dryer, there will be less snow, and the water supply will be reduced, resulting in increased irrigation costs.

Climactic changes will affect pests, diseases and invasive species and cause an increase in wildfire, Garcia told the audience.

“Today’s wineries must be energy efficient and environmentally responsible especially in the face of climate change,” said Bruce Zoecklein of Virginia Polytechnic University in Blacksburg. He explained that energy use depends on many factors including winery design,


Conservation features such as gravity flow and proper insulation of cellars are also important factors.

“The best energy-efficient cellar is below ground,” he said.

Zoeklein added levity to the discussion when he said, quoting noted French wine maker Alphonse Mellot, that “a wine cellar must have a low ceiling at the entrance, so that wine writers must bow down to you upon entering.” James Allen, an engineer and conservation and energy manager for FortisBC, provided recommendations on how to increase energy efficiency for wineries and vineyards.

“Before spending money doing expensive changes, make sure your current operation is as efficient as possible.”

His list of low-cost ways to make operations more sustainable includes turning off the lights, programming thermostats, installing air curtains and turning off air compressors when not in use.

More expensive measures include installing LED lighting, upgrading refrigeration and using the appropriate size of motors for pumps. Zoecklein reinforced Allen’s

recommendation to improve efficiency by first doing the simple things. “Don’t solarize your inefficiencies.” Karl Storchmann of New York University spoke about the economic

aspects of climate change on the wine business.

He said results from a panel model to analyze the impact of warming on revenue, cost, subsidies and profits for grape growers in all viticulture regions of the European Union from 1991 to 2013 suggest the impact of global warming will be ambiguous.

“While grapegrowers in the south and east of Europe may lose from further warming, grapegrowers in the northwestern viticulture regions will benefit from climate change.” Turning his attention to the

distribution of potential gains from global warming in northern regions of Europe, he said retail prices of identical German wines are significantly more sensitive to temperature increases than are producer prices.

Retail margins, the difference between producer and retail prices, are positively correlated with growing season temperatures in warm years, especially in the higher price brackets, while retail prices are not temperature-responsive in cooler years.

“This suggests that retailers profit from global warming more than producers do. While enjoying higher prices and margins for wines from warmer vintages, retailers do not decrease the prices for wines from cooler vintages,” Storchmann said. In conclusion, panelists agreed that while climate change presents many challenges, it can also be an opportunity to grow new varieties and to develop new viticulture areas.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall-Winter 2017

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