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Maryland Wine Industry Could Benefit, Suffer from Climate Change

A shift in climate could change certain wine growing regions, some for better and some for worse, according to one sommelier and climate scientist.

A shift in climate could change certain wine growing regions.|Photo credit: Patch file
A shift in climate could change certain wine growing regions.|Photo credit: Patch file

By Kate Andries, CNS

Warmer temperatures and a changing global climate could help the wine industry in Maryland by allowing a wider variety of grapes to grow throughout the state, climate scientists said.

“There are winners and losers,” from climate change, said Antonio Busalacchi, an advanced sommelier and climate scientist at the University of Maryland. “Some regions around the world will benefit from a warming climate.”

Busalacchi has studied 24 of the major wine regions throughout the world—half in old world regions like France and Italy, and half in the new world, like here in the U.S. He found that wines produced in old world regions face significant risk from climate change.

A changing climate in Maryland would mean warmer springs and summers, making for longer growing seasons, Busalacchi said. But a warming climate could hurt the wine industry as well.  Temperatures that reach too high can constrict the growing season and ruin crops. The Mid-Atlantic could face an eight fold increase in days that reach 100 degrees fahrenheit or more, Busalacchi said.

This is true of cold temperatures as well, he said. While he expects a decrease in total frost days along the East Coast, frost could become more unpredictable—something that could ruin an entire harvest.

“If a frost comes in when a grape vine is flowering or berries have just begun to appear, you can lose a significant amount of harvest,” Busalacchi said.

Luckily for Maryland wineries, new world wine production is much more flexible and able to respond to changes in climate than old world wine regions, Busalacchi said.

“It’s not as tied down by tradition so it’s easier to switch practices or mix varietals,” he said.

Global climate change could force age-old grape growing regions to shift their location to more hospitable climates.

Places like Bordeaux and Burgundy in France and California’s Napa Valley will see significant changes in climate in coming years, Busalacchi said.

Different varietals of grapes grow best in certain climates. Many French wines like Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux are named after the region they are grown in. Some require certain types of soil or certain amount of sun to grow properly. Some grapes simply require a cooler climate.

Thus, a shift in climate could completely change certain wine growing regions.  

“The style of wine will have to change, the blend of grapes will change,” Busalacchi said of the impact of climate change on wine.

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