THERE'S no clear-cut agreement about how climate change might affect specific wine-growing regions, but there's a growing consensus in the international wine industry that change is occurring. Among the predictions are that the best growing conditions will be in coastal zones, high deserts, mountain foothills, and those regions that have traditionally been considered too close to either the North or South Pole to support wine grapes. In today's wine regions, the coping strategy leans toward replanting vineyards with grape varieties better equipped to handle heat. Here's a quick look at some forecasted changes.
Europe: Politicians will be forced to rethink wine regulations across the continent, particularly the laws banning irrigation. In France, climate change has been great news so far, but in Bordeaux, rising temperatures are pushing Merlot past its optimal environment. Expect it to be replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Those varieties along with Syrah, Grenache and Carignane will become increasingly popular alternatives in the Languedoc as well. Burgundy is expected to have reliably ripe vintages every year. German winemakers will plant more red varieties and consider the reclassification of the country's grand cru vineyards. England's vineyard acreage is expected to double in the next 10 years with an emphasis on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to make sparkling wines. In Spain and Portugal, the predictions are dire unless the laws change to allow irrigation. Meanwhile, star Spanish vintner Miguel Torres and others are buying vineyard land in the Pyrenees foothills. The emerging areas are Denmark, Belgium and the mountainous regions of Central Europe.