Wine barrels at the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College’s Verde Valley campus. (Photo by Allison Bailey/Cronkite News)
How will climate change impact the Arizona wine business?
Some wine specialists foresee climate change eventually reducing the amount of wine produced. However, with every new harvesting season, winemakers find different ways to adapt to new weather challenges.
As Earth’s climate changes, so is the way winemakers are harvesting their grapes. Well-known wine countries in Western Europe have seen the consequences of climate change on the winemaking industry for years now. However, in countries like Italy, this harvesting season in particular was warmer than usual.
Wine production is at its best when there are hot summers followed by a late drought after heavy rainfall in the spring, but harvesting season is shifting. In a 2016 study, NASA and Harvard University found that climate change is reducing the timing of droughts and wine harvesting.
Now, vineyards are having to adapt to even warmer temperatures, shorter harvesting seasons, and extreme weather conditions, all of which are having an impact on the production of wine. In a global warming study, it was found in the past, droughts actually “helped heighten temperature just enough to pass the early-harvest threshold” but now the “overall warming alone has pushed summer temperatures over the threshold without the aid of drought.”
Paula Woolsey, who is a wine educator at Yavapai College and a director on Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, said that even in Arizona, climate change is constantly affecting the way they produce wine. However, some Arizona vineyards are experiencing different problems than countries in Europe.
“In Arizona we have the opposite of what people think is true. Our biggest challenges here is too much water and it’s too cold. The exact opposite of what you think it would be. Too much water happens during the monsoon season. So yes, we have challenges. No question about it, but some of those challenges is what makes us unique. And we learn, we learn more.”
Woolsey, who has been a part of Arizona’s wine industry for ten years, has seen the ups and downs of each harvesting season. She said wine production in Arizona is doing very well and continues to expand.
“Arizona is becoming really well-known. I was just looking at a Sunset Magazine that showed one of the wines here from the Southwest Wine Center and it got top accolades. Quality of the wine coming out of Arizona is remarkable. It speaks about talent and what we have here, mother nature here. No, it’s not going to become a size-wise big, but potentially reputation wise, very important.”
Story by Allison Bailey, Cronkite News