By: Dawn Dolan
While the full impact of climate change on the wine industry remains to be seen, we are already beginning to see the initial effects of it. This year’s 8th annual North Coast Wine Industry Expo (WIN Expo) offers some insight and practical applications in the late-morning session: Managing the Impact of Climate Change; The Evolution of Vineyard & Winemaking Practices session.
Rising temperatures and fluctuations in weather patterns will introduce a new set of viticultural and enological challenges to the industry. In some regions, climate change may bring rising alcohol levels, decreased natural acidity, increased potassium levels, and higher pH. In other areas, fluctuations in weather patterns may bring more summer rains which means higher disease pressure and subsequent decreases in yield and quality.
George Christie, President of the Wine Industry Network (WIN), has become increasingly attentive to the issue, and with how winemakers will deal with the effects of climate change. He considers, “What are some of the challenges that grape growers and winemakers are going to worry about 20 years from now?” Through conversations with winemakers and advisors, he was led to the decision to include this important topic, as part of this year’s WIN Expo.
A panel of winemakers and viticulturists will share their perspectives on mitigating the impact of climate change, from grape to bottle. The attendees of this session will leave with information on practices and tools to help them address some of the viticultural and enological challenges associated with climate change.
José Alberto Santos, President and CEO of Enartis, will be the moderator for this session. Santos holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from Porto University, and has over two decades of experience in the wine industry. Enartis has been evaluating the impact a new range of organic fertilizers has in mitigating the effects of climate change. “Drought, thermal stress, and sunburn may cause a vineyard to develop unevenly”, says Santos. “If there is too much heat, you may have appropriate accumulation of sugars, but improper development of flavors and phenolics.”
These new fertilizers are looking to promote a more even and uniform development of the vines and grapes, yielding wines with naturally lower potassium levels and pH’s, while ensuring proper flavor and color development. At the session, he plans to discuss environmentally sustainable practices and technologies that wineries can employ to fight the effects of climate change, working from vineyard to the pre-bottling stage.
Attendees of the session will be able to enjoy a complementary trial tasting of wines from grapes grown with Enartis’ experimental fertilizers, as well wines fermented with yeasts that allow for lower alcohol production and higher natural acidity. Enartis has partnered with wineries around the globe to run trials with these innovative yeasts. One of their winery partners is Casa Madera, the oldest winery in the Americas, from the Coahuila region of Mexico. Casa Madera’s winemaker, Francisco Rodriguez, is one of the panelists for this session and is a true expert in the field. He has won 865 national and international awards for his wines and was a key promoter for founding a wine industry in Mexico. He brings a global perspective to the panel, as he has collaborated in harvests in Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Clint Nelson, Vineyard Manager at Beckstoffer Vineyards – Red Hills, located in Lake County, CA, is the second expert panelist speaking at this session. Nelson holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology and has spent the bulk of his career working commercial research blocks across the coast and interior of California. Nelson believes that many of the climate change issues are the same for international and domestic growers and winemakers. He plans to share global strategies for dealing with the steady increase in potential plant vigor and insights on how winemakers can achieve “vine balance” and quality in the midst of a climate crisis.
The Managing the Impact of Climate Change; The Evolution of Vineyard & Winemaking Practices session will be held in Kraft Hall from 11:30am – 12:30pm. The 8th Annual North Coast Wine Industry Expo will take place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, CA on Thursday, December 5, 2019 from 9:00am — 4:00pm. You can register for this session or the full conference at www.wineindustryexpo.com.