Wine industry symposium tackles global warming

Leading experts look at how the wine industry is adapting to climate change

As evidence mounts to show climate change isn’t just a theory, renowned weather, wine and political thought leaders weigh in on the escalating disruption caused by fluctuating weather patterns. The Vinexpo Bordeaux Symposium will address the impact of climate change on the wine and spirits industry and seek to present its audience with practical solutions.

The questions raised by climate change are global and Vinexpo’s Symposium, the leading exhibition for the worlds’ wine community is the ideal place to discuss and exchange how different actors are tackling this challenge. By sharing knowledge and highlighting experiences, everyone present should be able to assess the reality of the situation and tackle the issues with a fresh perspective on the solutions to bring to a worldwide phenomenon. If any doubters are still looking for strong facts, Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General emeritus of the World Meteorological Organisation, will bring those during his talk. “I only take into consideration irrefutable arguments, certainties,’ warns Jarraud.

Sharing the findings of the September 2018 Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, Jarraud shows that 2017 CO2 emissions exceeded the 40 bn tonne threshold; up 1.6%. These emissions, he explains, produced by human activities (industry, agriculture, energy, transport, etc…) are the main causes of global warming preventing the redistribution of solar radiation into the atmosphere.

With such strong facts, how is science supporting the wine industry? Eric Giraud-Heraud, director in charge of research at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences, warns of the need for a “structural revolution” to safeguard the future of winemaking. “The issue is not whether we will be able to make wine in the future in Bordeaux, Languedoc, the Cotes du Rhone or Provence, but which wine we will be able to make in which vineyard and for whom,” warns Giraud- Heraud. Although he takes some comfort from the resilience of winemakers, who are devising new methods and from moving uphill to cooler slopes, he warns that producers must be prepared for “increases in alcoholic strength, a foreseeable decrease in in acidity, or even a loss of aromatic complexity and aging potential.”

Jean-Robert Pitte, permanent secretary of the academy of moral and political sciences, agrees that wine-makers throughout history have shown great resilience in the face of change. And the current era of man-made climate change will demand further adaptation: “New methods have to be devised… some vineyards will have to be abandoned. But all is not lost. Never in the history of wine growing have so many good wines being produced in all latitudes.”

As part of Vinexpo’s climate change symposium, Patrice Geoffron, Director of the energy-climate team at Paris- Dauphine University carried out an exclusive study. On the subject of adaptation tools, he said innovation since the early 2000s has been wide- ranging “and includes new rootstocks, changes in the varietal range, a reduction in leaf thinning, de-alcoholisation and acidification. However, it is clear that the economic consequences of these different methods are disparate, the most drastic involving new sites and/or new varieties.”

He warned about placing faith in new wine Eldorados. “Although new areas conducive to wine growing are emerging (the south of Great Britain, for example), in a more unstable global economy, due to climate change, there is no guarantee that new production areas will be firmly established.”

Importantly, the symposium will include contributions from stakeholders all around the world, not just in the traditional European wine production heartlands. One participant will be Dan Johnson of the Australian Wine Research Institute, who says: “Climate change has long been the subject of debate in a country that suffered a period of no rainfall in the 1990s known as the “millennium drought”. Sustainability programmes have been launched at industry level and in particular by wine companies. One of the main threats to the Australian wine industry is the availability of water. So research on irrigation techniques and strategies is one of the strong points of our R&D, as is work on clones and rootstocks that optimise water usage or are resilient to drought.”


This reinforces the idea that the symposium is a way for delegates from around the world to share their knowledge and insights on this critical issue.

Tuesday 14th May
from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Hall 2, Room 8

Michel Jarraud Secretary-General emeritus, The World Meteorological Organisation

Jean-Robert Pitte Permanent Secretary, Academy of moral and political sciences