Grapes are fussy fruit. They like the climate to be just so to grow, and as the climate changes and shifts, the regions in the U.S. (and around the world) that are ideal for viticulture may become less suitable in the near future.

The Washington Post cites recently published research that predicts “19 to 73 percent of the land suitable for grape growing in various wine-producing areas will cease to be appropriate for viticulture by 2050.”

It doesn’t take a study to notice that things are changing outside our back doors. The seasons seem to be shifting. In my region, fall seems to be lasting a little longer. Spring seems to be taking longer to arrive. Overall temperatures are a bit warmer, and for fussy grapes, warmer isn’t necessarily better. Grapes like cooler temperatures.

There’s a concern that as temperatures warm, wine making will need to head north, whether it’s north of Napa Valley in California or north of Bordeaux in France.  There might need to be a “large-scale clearing of wild habitat in cooler places” to accommodate the need for vineyards in the new regions. Or, if vineyards stay where they are, a lot of natural resources may need to be used to keep the grapes cool. Both of these scenarios are obviously not environmentally ideal.

What can those of us who love both the environment and wine do? Here are my first thoughts.

  • Support wineries that are committed to sustainability already. There’s no guaranteeing it, but if a winery is already committed to being sustainable, there’s a good chance that as adaptations need to be made, it will make those changes sustainably, too.
  • Be flexible with your wine choices. It may be that different grape varieties will need to be cultivated in current wine regions as the climate shifts. Be open to adapting your palate to new wines, as winemakers need to adapt their vineyards to conditions created by climate change.
  • Continue to battle climate change.
Do you have any ideas, as a wine drinker, how you can support sustainable winemaking as the climate changes?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Climate change may test wine drinkers' adaptability
Regions that are ideal for growing grapes may become less suitable as the climate shifts.