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Wine and climate change

New global risk index for wine regions reveals the impact of climate change on the wine industry
Wine and climate change

Every year, the global wine industry suffers losses of more than ten billion US dollars from damaged assets, production losses and lost profits due to extreme weather events and natural disasters.

A team of researchers, led by Dr James Daniell of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), have examined the extent to which regions are affected by climate change and, from their findings, created a global risk index for wine regions.

The wine regions of Mendoza and San Juan in Argentina are exposed to the highest risks due to extreme weather and natural hazards. Kakheti and Racha in Georgia come next, followed by Southern Cahul in Moldova, Northwest Slovenia, Yaruqui in Ecuador and Nagano in Japan.

The WineRisk website summarises the results of the study and presents solutions for individual wine regions

‘Through detailed natural hazard analysis, research can help winemakers and governments alike to prepare adequately for the natural hazards that they face and to reduce losses.’

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

No region is safe

The study, which covers more than 7,500 wine regions in 131 countries, concludes that there is no wine region in the world that is not exposed to extreme weather or natural disasters.

Events such as frost, hail, floods, heat, drought, forest fires and bushfires as well as earthquakes make the wine industry lose more than $10 billion every year, according to conservative estimations. These losses result from damaged assets, losses of production and lost profit.

Cold waves and frost have a large impact, James Daniell says, with hailstorms presenting one of the largest yearly natural threats to European winemakers.

Traditional wine countries like France and Italy have seen huge losses in the past five years due to hail and frost, with many losses being recorded in the regions of Burgundy and Piedmont.

The hail losses from 2012 to 2016 in some vineyards totalled 50-90% of the value of the crop and caused long-term damage to many old vines.

It’s not just Europe that is affected by hail. All over the world, winegrowing regions are affected by at least one hail event per year, which can cause damage to the single vintage or to multiple vintages depending on the growth phase of the vines.

According to James Daniell, using hail nets during ‘a large hail event’ can save the crop in most cases – though he adds that cost-benefit analyses generally show the premium wines should be the ones covered by hail nets, with insurance or other cheaper methods used for other wines.

Producers and threats

Below are the main threats to the world’s biggest wine producers.

Italy: 4.9 billion litres (2016, Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin/OIV)) – Hail, frost, earthquake
France: 4.2 billion litres (2016, OIV) – Frost, hail, storm
Spain: 3.8 billion litres (2016, OIV) – Hail (Northwest), frost, heat
USA: 2.25 billion litres (2016, OIV) – Frost, earthquake, storm
Australia: 1.25 billion litres (2016, OIV) – Frost, storm, hail, bushfire


Earthquakes can knock out the infrastructure of entire wine regions for a number of years. In the past years, earthquakes struck Chile, New Zealand and the USA, among other smaller events causing damage around the world.

Over 125 million litres of wine were lost in Chile in 2010, mainly due to the failure of steel tanks. ‘Earthquake-resistant design could have saved many millions of litres’, Daniell says. Earthquakes also cause large losses to buildings, tanks, barrels, equipment and chemicals.

Even small earthquakes don’t only cause financial loss but also historical loss by destroying tasting rooms and rare wine collections. A few dollars investment in stabilisation mechanisms, such as quake wax, zip ties or bolts, can often save millions of dollars’ loss.

Climate change

Global climate change will have both positive and negative effects on wine industry, according to the study. Researchers expect a general shift of wine-growing regions southward and northward, while some wine regions closer to the equator may be lost. Many wines may indeed improve.

‘The English, Canadian, and Northern China wine regions will likely increase production markedly and continue to improve their market share and quality of production’, predicts Dr Daniell.

The scientists expect that many wineries will master climate changes by changing grape varieties or harvest times. In addition, they will profit from new grape strains, innovative technologies to optimise production and reduce damage due to biological pathogens and insects and new methods to overcome extreme weather events.

Bushfires, floods and volcanoes

The study also covers problems such as bushfires causing smoke taint to vines. However, smaller-scale studies are required before the results can be included globally in the index. In addition, the effects of floods on vines are being explored. Nevertheless, a major volcanic eruption would likely cause the largest global impact to the wine industry, examples being the Laki eruption of 1783/84 or the Tambora eruption in 1815 which caused the famous ‘year without a summer’ in 1816.

Atmospheric changes, lack of sunlight and global transport problems could cause major issues not only for the wine industry, though other food security issues would likely be more important.

Click here for more about the KIT Climate and Environment Center.

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