To protect the taste of wine, wine producers are generally known to be reluctant to try new grape varieties but a latest research suggests that maybe they will eventually have to plant lesser-known grape varieties to counteract some of the effects of climate change.
"The Old World has a huge diversity of wine grapes - there are overplanted 1,000 varieties - and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 percent of the wine market in many countries," said Elizabeth Wolkovich, assistant professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and co-author of the study. "We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change," she added.
Wolkovich says that wine producers will now face a choice: 'proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering the negative consequences of climate change.'
Elizabeth Wolkovich said: "It's going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we've already committed to...for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they've grown in the past."
She added: "But what we're interested in talking about is how much more diversity of grape varieties do we have, and could we potentially be using that diversity to adapt to climate change."
Unfortunately, Wolkovich believes that convincing the wine producers to try different grape varieties will be difficult, and the reason is the concept of terroir -- the notion that a wine's flavour is a reflection of where which and how the grapes were grown.
"There's a real issue in the premier wine-growing regions that historical terroir is what makes great wine, and if you acknowledge in any way that you have climate change, you acknowledge that your terroir is changing," Wolkovich said. "So in many of those regions, there is not much of an appetite to talk about changing varieties."
Wine growers in Europe have the advantage of tremendous diversity. They have over 1,000 grape varieties to choose from but yet, the strict labelling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of the diversity.
"The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change," Wolkovich said.
The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.