The New York Times has a story about how in Provence, France, winemakers are having to grapple with climate change and change how they approach the growing of often centuries-old varieties.
Here's how the Times frames the story and the economic impact:
"The tastes of centuries-old varieties are being altered by spiking temperatures, scant rainfall, snap frosts and unpredictable bouts of extreme weather. The hellish summer was the latest reminder of how urgently the $333 billion global wine industry is being forced to adapt. Temperature records were set in Europe, the United States, China, North Africa and the Middle East as hail, drought, wildfires and floods on a biblical scale inflicted damage.
"Grape vines are some of the most weather-sensitive crops, and growers from Australia to Argentina have been struggling to cope. The imperative is particularly great in Europe, which is home to five of the world’s top 10 wine-producing countries and includes 45 percent of the planet’s wine-growing areas."
Some of it is about timing: "The first burst of buds appear 15 days earlier than they did in the early 1970s, according to a recent analysis. Ripening starts 18 days earlier. And harvesting begins in late August instead of mid September. Change was expected, but the accelerating pace has come as a shock.
"For many vineyards, the new weather patterns are resulting in smaller grapes that produce sweeter wines with a higher alcohol content. These developments, alas, are out of step with consumers who are turning to lighter, fresher tasting wines with more tartness and less alcohol."
For some vineyards, the implications are more dire: water shortages that may make some vineyards unsustainable.
One of the approaches that some vineyards are taking is to expand the region's biodiversity, which can "create a balanced functioning of the ecology … Scientists have found that expanding the variety of plants and animals can reduce the impact of shifting climate on crops, highlighting, as one study put it, 'the critical role that human decisions play in building agricultural systems resilient to climate change'."
- KC's View:
Last week it was olive oil. This week it is wine. Is climate change deliberately trying to make my dotage less pleasant? (Because, of course, this is all about me.)
The serious point is this: as I said last week, this is one of a number of stories that have popped up in recent weeks about how climate change is affecting the supply of basic products on which we count. There seems to be no question that producers are going to have to find ways to compensate for these climate shifts, and retailers may have to move away from their "all products all the time" approach - this may turn out to be a promise that cannot be kept.