Warmer Climate Not a Bad Omen for Swiss Winemakers

 


The effects of global warming have already caught the attention of the world's wine enthusiasts. 
 
Scorching temperatures and drought have wracked regions and vineyards in California and Australia, causing the two countries to address the need for better water management and explore the benefits of dry farming. 
 
However, the colder wine regions of the world are counting their blessings – warmer climates mean a better future for their grape harvests. 
 
This past week Swiss news site The Local talked with Swiss agriculture expert Vivian Zufferey about the anticipated benefits of a warming weather in the normally chilly interior of Switzerland. 
 
Zufferey told The Local that global warming is “a positive overall for Swiss wine growers because it guarantees better maturation, especially for late harvest grape varieties.”
 
Over the past century, average temperatures in Switzerland have risen about 1.6 degrees Celsius. 
 
The continued increase in heat means that winemakers must make decisions about what types of grapes they will grow. 
 
While certain techniques for cooling grapes can be utilized for the plethora of cold-weather varietals the country grows, winemakers are already adjusting to the higher temps by planting grapes more suitable for warmer climates. 
 
Switzerland's Valais region, the country's leading wine producer, is home to Syrah vines. There has also been talk that winemakers want to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, the legendary warm-weather champ. 
But the adjustments aren't stopping there – winemakers are taking a cue from Southern France and planting Merlot, too. 
 
Other winemakers are starting to plant Pinot Noir in some of the country's higher elevations, soaking up the daytime sunshine but taking advantage of the cool mountain nights. 
 
Yet this sense of innovation is tempered by a desire to produce quality wines with staying power. 
 
“It is necessary to remain prudent because certain varieties are difficult when it comes to temperatures and we want a quality product ten years out of ten, not just for one or two years,” Zefferey said. 
 
Along with the concern about quality is the unpredictable nature of a warmer planet. High temperatures may be good for the vines, but droughts and severe heat waves could ruin a harvest no matter how well the grapes are maturing. 
 
Switzerland's measured enthusiasm about global warming is not unlike the hopeful curiosity of winemakers in Scandinavia, where Swedish producers are hoping warmer summers mean they can start planting warm-weather varietals that have otherwise been impossible to plant. 
 

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