Okanagan Valley Winemakers Unfazed by Nature's Attempt to Turn Up the Heat

 


A 2013 climate study titled “Wine, climate change and conservation” by climate change expert Lee Hannah posited that the world's vineyards would experience average temperature increases between 2.5 and 4.7 degrees Celsius in the next 35 years. 
 
While the forecast did not bode well for France, Italy and California, “swaths of the British Columbia interior” will be better suited for grape growing, according to an article this past week by Business Vancouver. 
 
Reporter Glen Korstrom set the report in the context of the current grape growing season in the Okanagan Valley, in which warm temperatures threaten buds.
 
“The biggest fear is that a late winter cold snap will kill fragile young buds, resulting in a lower yield,” Korstrom wrote. “Underlying their concerns about how climate change could damage operations, however, is optimism and pragmatic determination to make the situation work in their favour.”
 
The optimism in British Columbia's main winemaking region is not uncommon in a global sense – winemakers from Australia to California have expressed their faith that evolving winemaking techniques and vintner ingenuity will help global vines survive. 
 
According to Korstrom's story, winemakers in the region have already taken action in response to climate change numbers.
“Some British Columbia winemakers are already tearing out vines that grow grapes used to make white wine and replacing them with grapevines used to make red wine because those varietals prefer more warmth,” the story said.
 
Even legendary icewine producer Walter Huber, the man who, according to Business Vancouver, created North America's first icewine, is overhauling his vineyards.
 
“This year he intends to continue his winery's transformation by tearing out another seven acres of white-varietal vines and replacing them with the red varietals Merlot and Zweigelt,” Korstrom wrote.
The icewine maven isn't going to abandon all of his dessert-wine vines, though.
 
“Huber will keep reserving about 12 of his 50 acres of vineyard for grapes used to make icewine because he believes that, even with climate change, there will still be cold snaps long enough to produce the dessert wine,” the article said.
 
Other winemakers aren't so sure the temperatures will change in the manner predicted by the study. Long-time horticulturist and winemaker Tony Stewart told Korstrom said he knows the climate is changing but he's not sure if it will live up to the 2050 predictions.
 
“There is obvious change occurring,” he told Korstrom. “But to make those statements at this point, I would think, is premature.”
 

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