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HOUSTONTexas (KIAH)  – Wine grapes are one of the most sensitive crops when it comes to bearing the elements. Each varietal has specific needs for temperature and precipitation in order to survive, thrive, and most importantly, produce good wine! New studies have come out from Climate Central relating the changing climate to grape growth.

For more information…I caught up with my old pal Paul Bonarrigo.  

“It is actually a major discussion right now in the wine world”, says Bonarrigo.

At the beginning of the season, I toured Paul’s vineyards at Messina Hof to learn all about how the weather impacts growing grapes. Recapping this past season, the weather really impacted his harvest.  Because of the late season cold snap in February, harvesting was delayed by nearly 2 weeks in the high plains. 

“Our last harvest at the estate wasn’t until September which is extraordinarily late.”, he adds.

The moderation of harvest season rain really helped the vineyards. Normally with late season tropical storms and hurricanes, untimely heavy rains can impact areas like the high plains during the end of harvesting season, but that wasn’t the case this season! 

“You want rain early in the season when the vine is growing and establishing itself to give it everything it needs to ripen the fruit well, but you don’t want heavy rain right when the fruit is ready to be harvested due to the challenges that brings.”, says Paul.

Paul noted that this summer was below average in terms of temperature for his estate. 

“We didn’t run into a lot of issues where the vine shuts down because it is in 100-degree temperature day after day”, Paul says. 

However, the average growing season in the United States is from April to October. The temperatures of this time frame has risen by two degrees since 1970. It may not seem like a lot, but it is, for crops that are as sensitive as wine grapes. Other threats to vineyards include wildfire smoke, extreme heat, and flooding rain events. All are linked to climate change. If winters are shorter and milder, bugs will be out for more of the season. Insects and pests can harm the plants as well.  

How will the change the future of wine production?  

You may see a shift in the types of grapes grown in various parts of the world. As temperatures change, different varieties of grapes will be more suitable for higher latitudes.  

“Texas is huge we can grow just about any variety in the state it just depends on where” , says Paul.

We have seen a shift more toward the Mediterranean varieties being grown here in Texas during recent years. 

How will climate change affect the taste?  

Consistent temperatures of warm climates with a gradual change from summer to fall will allow for the grapes to ripen longer. A lot of the good natural acidity can escape with an elongated ripening season. Expect a fruitier, less acidic pour.  

A stronger shift in season, from summer to fall-like conditions, will produce a tart, more acidic pour. Lower temperatures preserve acidity.