Pincus, R., 2003: Wine, place, and identity in a changing climate. Gastronomica, 3, 87-93.


The links among wine, place, and identity are both cultural and agricultural. Local tradition often informs the many decisions made during the growing of grapes (viticulture) and the making of wine (viniculture), but wine also reflects the physical environment in which the grapes are grown -- a combination of geology, aspect, and weather that the French call terroir. Thus wine production techniques are (in principle, at least) adapted to local conditions, resulting in wines that can be strongly connected to their particular place in the world.

Products made on a small, individualized scale are not very practical in the twenty-first-century, and commercial pressures are pushing wine production towards more uniformity and less site-specificity. But there is a greater long-term threat to the traditional connection between wine and place. Climate change, the fruit of the Industrial Revolution and continued population growth, is beginning to make decades of winemaking expertise irrelevant. In an increasingly warm world, the particular associations between wine and place will be difficult or impossible to maintain.

This article explores ways in which the changing climate will affect wine production, and how winemakers must adapt in order to continue making wines that reflect their particular region and site. I use simulations of future climate to represent the ways in which weather and climate are likely to change in the coming decades in several wine growing regions; I also describe the reactions of several vintners to the simulations, focusing on the range of responses they are considering.