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How climate change is driving innovation toward more sustainable wines

Stormy Vineyard
Posted at 1:19 PM, Apr 22, 2022

Rachel Signer knows a thing or two about wine, and her new memoir, “You Had Me At Pét-Nat," details her journey into the world of wine.

"I traveled to probably a dozen different countries as a wine journalist, meeting all sorts of different winemakers and writing about them," she said.

She now produces natural wine with little to no preservatives, with her husband in Australia. It's all taught her how climate change impacts viticulture.

"It's become a scenario where winemakers can't count on anything," Signer said. "They can't count on all of their hard work paying off because the weather might step in and just do whatever it wants."

Athénaïs de Béru knows all about this, as she's been producing natural wine at Chateau de Béru in the renowned Burgundy region of France since 2006.

"What happened is that in 2016, we had for the first time, very, very strong destruction of our crop due to a heavy black frost in the spring," she said. "We lost 99% of our possible crop."

Research shows climate change is impacting many vineyards across the globe in various ways, whether it be frosts, extreme droughts, or wildfires, as is the case for Jason Charles of Vinca Minor Winery in Berkeley, California.

"I didn't really feel like it [climate change] was all that close. It was always off in the distance or affected somebody else," Charles said. "Now Napa-Sonoma, all the way down to Santa Barbara, we're seeing this in real-time."

Though these two winemakers are nearly 6,000 miles apart, the common thread is finding unique ways to salvage their crops. While they found short-term solutions to make things work for the best, it's pretty clear that more changes will need to be made.

In 2020, Business Wire estimated the global wine market to be nearly $327 billion, but Signer and other winemakers know they need to be part of permanent solutions to battle climate change and keep their businesses on track.

"I think we need to really reconsider the way that wine has become a product of mass consumption and ask people to think of wine as an agricultural product, just like food," she said.

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