Drinking wine after climate change means drinking rare bottles
This is wine no one in the world has ever tasted. – It has a beautiful color, a very intense color. And we’ll be drinking this in the future. – It’s fresh. It’s intense. Because our favorite wines are under threat of extinction. Across the world, warmer temperatures are affecting everything we grow. Farmers and scientists are in a race against time to save the foods we love. Winemakers are on the front lines. And they’re looking to the past to adapt to the future. And finding answers in this glass of wine. I’m Hannah Yi. This is Quartz. Subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one. – Wine grapes are so spectacular because they’re so sensitive to climate. Elizabeth Wolkovich is an ecologist who studies how climate change affects wine. She says wine grapes, more than any other crop, are the perfect climate specimens. – They’re so responsive to the drought conditions, the frost
conditions, extremely responsive to how hot it was, that you are tasting exactly what that season really was. And you put it in a bottle, and can taste what something
was like 100 years ago, or three years ago. But it’s also one of the reasons that some people
say [it’s] a canary in the coal mine for climate change. The biggest indicator? Harvest dates are moving up because it’s getting warmer. – Humans have been recording the dates of harvests
of wine grapes in Burgundy, France since the 1300s, and so we can actually reconstruct past temperature regimes. An increase of about 1.2 degrees Celsius over the past century has meant
wine grapes are maturing earlier. And in some places, that’s been great. Thanks to milder winters and warmer summers, there are
burgeoning winemaking communities in Sweden and the UK. In Germany, winemakers are harvesting Riesling five weeks earlier
than they did decades ago. And that means juicier grapes. But those same trends are putting the world’s most famous wine regions at risk. In Burgundy, warmer temperatures are making finicky
grapes like Pinot Noir harder to grow. South Africa is having the lowest harvest in years, after a historic drought. Bushfires in Australia are adding a burnt aftertaste to wines. So winemakers need new grapes. Bodegas Torres is one of the largest wineries in Spain. And this is not your typical vineyard.
Because these wine grapes are really good at one thing: – This variety is working very well in extreme conditions of high temperatures. Mireia Torres is the fifth generation of winemakers in her family. These grapes are from Catalonia, and winemakers
stopped growing these varieties centuries ago. Miguel Torres is Mireia’s brother. – Our ancestors, they wanted varieties that [would ripen] a bit earlier. because they wanted to make sure that they would not have
any complications because of late rains that could come. Their Catalan ancestors stopped growing grapes that ripen later. But now that the climate in their region is changing, the Torreses
have started looking for those forgotten varieties. – Here we have all the collections of Catalan varieties. All these, all are ancestral. No one has tasted them before. – We feel a little bit like Indiana Jones.
We are recuperating part of our history. Miguel A. Torres started the project more than 30 years ago, placing ads in the local paper requesting any strange-looking grape vines. – We have found around 55. Scientists analyze the DNA to make sure it’s a unique variety. Then it’s brought here and tested for viruses. The young vines are planted in this test vineyard,
cultivated into grapes ready for harvest… – So next year, we will be able to have wine from this vineyard. and brought here to create small batches of wine. – These actually, it’s called “variety 44.” That is the code
that we use for varieties that still don’t have a name. The entire process can take anywhere from six to 20 years. They’ve tested 55 varieties. Three are promising. They’re delicious and adapted to warmer temperatures. One is even acclimatized to colder conditions.
And that’s important for another reason: Because, as it gets warmer, winemakers are looking
to plant in higher regions with cooler temperatures. These are the highest-altitude vineyards in Catalonia,
and they’re growing an ancient variety called Pirene. Even if we planted no new varieties, we couldn’t expect to drink
the same bottle of Riesling or Pinot Noir in the future. The climate is changing their flavor. – Wine grapes have over 1,100 different planted varieties, but very little
of that diversity actually makes it to the average consumer. How can we use the massive diversity we have in wine grapes to think about adapting? And the idea, I believe, is to change varieties. If we want our wine, or any food, to survive a warmer world,
our tastes will have to adapt, too. So are you open to tasting wines from ancient grapes and new regions, or are you going to stockpile your favorite bottles? Let us know in the comments.