Spanish wine’s climate challenge

Winemakers climate challenge

Image of grape harvesting. Credit: Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com

Is the future of Spanish wine at risk due to climate change?

The Spanish wine industry faces unprecedented challenges as winemakers and scientists collaborate to adapt to rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns.

In the Penedes region of Catalonia, renowned cava producer Freixenet has initiated a temporary employment regulation file (ERTE) with unions due to severe drought conditions.

This is part of a broader issue highlighted by a recent study in ‘Reviews Earth & Environment’, which projects that a global temperature increase of over two degrees Celsius could render 90 per cent of coastal and lowland wine regions, including those in Spain, Italy, and Greece, unsustainable.

The study underscores the threat of intensifying droughts and heatwaves on grape cultivation. Sergio Fuster, CEO of Raventos Codorniu, told La Informacion, ‘We are facing the greatest environmental challenge that this sector has faced in the last century.’

Adapting viticulture practices

The Spanish Wine Federation (FEV) is revising its ‘Action Plan against Climate Change’, initially launched in 2020, with an updated version due later this year.

Jose Luis Benitez, the federation’s general director, aims to ‘expand scientific knowledge’ and apply it directly to vineyard management. This includes coping with less production and faster grape maturation due to changing climatic conditions.

Emma Gaitan, a doctoral researcher at the Foundation for Climate Research (FIC), emphasises the changing climate’s impact on traditional vine-growing regions.

‘The climatic conditions are changing,’ and water resources are diminishing, Gaitan explains, suggesting that future rainfall patterns will change, affecting when water is available, which could pose significant challenges to all agricultural sectors.

Innovative strategies in vineyards

In response to these challenges, significant innovations are underway in various areas. The Somontano Protected Designation of Origin (DO Somontano) has launched the ‘Somid Project.’

This project is investing nearly €150,000, partly funded by European resources, to install a network of control nodes equipped with agroclimatic and soil sensors across their vineyards. This technology enables better decision-making based on real-time data.

Similarly, Viñas del Vero in the Gonzalez Byass group is focusing on sustainable soil management and precise use of phytosanitary products.

Jose Ferrer, manager and winemaker, highlighted their use of compost made from used coffee grounds to improve soil quality. ‘It enhances soil permeability and reduces its pH,’ Ferrer noted, demonstrating a proactive approach to adapting vineyard practices to climate realities.

In conclusion, while the future may hold significant changes for Spanish viticulture, the industry’s proactive and innovative adaptations suggest a resilient path forward.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.

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