The wrath of grapes: Winemakers lose $10 billion to weather and natural disasters every year
Winemakers are losing more than $10 billion a year worldwide from severe weather and natural disasters, scientists report.
A team of European-Australian researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a global risk index to assess which wine regions are most vulnerable, and how climate change could be tampering with production. After all, the industry is estimated to pour $300 billion into the world economy annually, so drying up production is a major buzzkill for everybody.
And your malbec is in trouble. Argentina’s Mendoza and San Juan regions suffer the greatest risks due to extreme weather and natural hazards of any vineyards worldwide, followed by Eastern European winemakers in Georgia, Moldova and Slovenia. Yaruqui in Ecuador and Nagana in Japan round out the top five.
Seismologists and meteorologists studied more than 7,500 wine regions in 131 countries, and found there is not a single vineyard that isn’t exposed to dangerous frost, floods, hail, heat, drought, forest fires, bushfires and earthquakes that destroy the grapes or stall production for billions of dollars in damage.
Frost has the most chilling effect. “Cold waves and frost have a large impact,” wrote Dr. James Daniell, the head of the study, particularly across Europe. Case in point, French winemakers have been deploying candles, heaters and even the downward draft from helicopters to fight back spring frosts damaging Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy vineyards. France’s total wine production plummeted 10% last year from severe weather conditions.
Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Hungary suffered frost last week that could claim 30% of crops — and up to 60% in some parts.
Hailstorms also caused some European winemakers, especially in France and Italy, to lose 50% to 90% of the value of their crops between 2012 and 2016, and also hurt many old vines long-term, according to the research.
And earthquakes have shaken production by wrecking buildings, tanks, barrels and equipment, as well as destroying tasting rooms and valuable rare wine collections. Chile lost more than 125 million liters of wine in 2010 after a monster quake destroyed many steel tanks.
Climate change will continue to wreak havoc on crops, although this index doesn’t delve into that too deeply. The report notes that an “increase in temperature” and “variability of storms” is affected by climate change, which could contribute to losing more wine in regions closer to the equator.
But NASA climate models have shown that increased global temperatures also increase the risk of drought and more intense storms.
The researchers hope their report will help winemakers to learn from past trends and become better prepared at protecting their vines and equipment, as they can use the historic data to determine whether a weather event or natural disaster was a fluke or an established risk.
Here’s some of the biggest wine producers in the world, and their main threats.
Italy: 4.9 billion liters in 2016, from hail, frost, earthquake
France: 4.2 billion liters, from frost, hail, storms
Spain: 3.8 billion liters, from hail (in the northwest), frost, heat
USA: 2.25 billion liters in 2016, from frost, earthquake, storm
Australia: 1.25 billion liters in 2016, from frost, storm, hail, bushfire
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