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Alto Adige Wine and Climate Change

Challenges of Today and Tomorrow

10/2/2018

Perhaps you have already noticed. In Alto Adige, the grapes are being harvested two to three weeks earlier than was the case just twenty years ago. This is to be traced back above all else to global warming, which leads to the vines leafing and blossoming earlier. And as a result, the harvest of some varieties in Alto Adige already begins in late August. 

“The possible area of cultivation for wine in Alto Adige is growing as a result of this shift,” says Barbara Raifer of the Laimburg Research Center. Today, it is already possible to produce good wine up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. And nothing will change with this trend in coming years. The other side of the coin, though, is on one hand the weather situations that are becoming more and more extreme and, on the other hand, the slow shift of the level of varieties to higher elevations. “It is not seldom that rainfalls that last longer with warm temperatures lead to harvest failures which can also often be considerable,” explains Raifer. The fact that the varieties are in general moving higher up is visible above all else with Alto Adige Pinot Noir. While approximately thirty years ago, the Pinot Noir could be planted directly above Egna in the Bassa Atesina, today it is primarily Lagrein that is planted in that area. This trend is present with nearly all varieties. “The traditional white wine varieties are having a particularly difficult time of it with this development,” says Raifer. “Because of the rising temperatures, these grapes contain less acidity and thus more sugar. In the future, there will therefore be fewer wines in Alto Adige with a high acidity content.” 

This process of development is only perceived by consumers in part, since it progresses so slowly. But in the future, tastes will be different. According to Raifer, this is influenced by two factors: on one hand, by the rising temperatures, and on the other hand, by new varieties that will be developed in coming years. As far as the characteristics of the wine are concerned, it can already be recognized now that the aroma is in general somewhat more mature and the fresh tones are pushed back into the background, at least with wines from lower elevations.  

In conclusion, Raifer is of the opinion that “It is not clear whether in the future, the world of Alto Adige wine will once again be more greatly focused upon red wines or else will include in its repertoire new white wines which, in spite of the warmer temperatures, still form enough acidity.” We shall certainly see in the next few years…

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