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Canada to host famed wine symposium that is obsessed with climate change

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wine symposiumCanada will play host to the 2020 International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, according to an announcement made at the ICCWS’s 2016 edition recently held in Brighton, England.

The prestigious event brings together grape and wine researchers, trade professionals and media from wine regions around the world and will take place at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, home to the Cool Climate Oenology Viticulture Institute.

“We are excited for the opportunity to provide our international colleagues with an engaging conference program,” says the Institute’s director Debbie Inglis. “With ever-changing conditions within the grape and wine industry, the conference will examine how adversity drives innovation to achieve success.”

Canada beat out Australia, New Zealand and Chile in their bid to host the conference, which is held every four years and has become increasingly preoccupied with the present and future role played by climate change within the global wine industry.

Brighton’s wine symposium was opened by internationally recognized wine critic Jancis Robinson and spent its first day on the theme of Facing a Challenging Climate. “Changes in temperature, as the primary factor limiting the suitability for wine production, are causing shifts in the regional distribution of wine-producing areas and bringing new cool-climate producers onto the map,” say the conference organizers.

A recent study by climate scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University in New York City shows that climate change is altering the production of wine and grapes in the world’s most important wine-making regions of Western Europe, potentially to the benefit of both wine-makers and drinkers.

Researchers combed through historical data on harvesting dates and wine quality going back 400 years and determined that a long-established link between seasonal drought and high quality wines is no longer in effect.

Traditionally, hotter weather during the spring and early summer in the cooler climate regions of France and Switzerland followed by drought conditions in the late summer are seen as the perfect recipe not only for speeding up fruit maturation and producing earlier-than-average harvests, but also for better quality wines. Yet, researchers have found that even though warmer temperatures of the past half-century have allowed harvests to come in much earlier than past years, the higher quality wines have emerged without the late-season drought which has mostly disappeared in Western Europe due to broader changes to climate patterns.

“Wine quality depends on a number of factors beyond climate, including grape varieties, soils, vineyard management and winemaker practices,” say the study’s authors. “Our results suggest that climate change has fundamentally altered the climatic drivers of early wine grape harvests in France, with possible ramifications for viticulture management and wine quality.”

All may not be rosé for wine producers in other regions, however.

Take England’s wine industry, which has seemingly benefited hugely from warming trends over the past half century. Its sparkling wines, for one, have become the toast of wine enthusiasts the world over, and the amount of English land devoted to viticulture has increased by 148 per cent over the past decade. But a new study of the industry in Britain warns that along with warmer growing seasons, England is likely to experience more weather variations and extreme events such as cold snaps, sharp frosts and downpours, all of which can prove fatal to a given year’s crop.

“A recent change in dominant UK vine varieties has also increased the industry’s sensitivity to weather variability,” says lead researcher Alistair Nesbitt of the University of East Anglia. “There has been a drive to produce English sparkling wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot noir – but these grapes are more sensitive to our climate variability.”

UPDATE: The 2020 International Cool Climate Wine Symposium was rescheduled to July 25 – 29, 2021

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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