Antonio Busalacchi
Antonio Busalacchi

While the rest of the world nervously watches temperatures grow more extreme, wine producers in Washington state and Oregon may benefit from global climate change, a university researcher found.

In his research on climate change and global viticulture, the cultivation of grapevines, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center Director Antonio Busalacchi found wine producers in the cooler regions of Washington and Oregon, as well as Chile, Argentina, Germany and New Zealand, will see more favorable conditions for wine production and possibly a boost to their production levels if climate change continues as predicted.

On June 24, Busalacchi, who is also a university atmospheric and oceanic science professor and advanced sommelier, presented his research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

Busalacchi’s talk covered his research into 24 different wine-growing regions, half in the Old World and half in the New World, and analyzed how climate change will impact those regions by 2050 and 2100.

“The places that stand to lose the most are regions that will undergo water and temperature stress, such as South Africa and Australia,” he said.

The regions that will not suffer as severe an impact are in Germany and Washington, because they are at more northern latitudes, Chile and Argentina, because they are at higher altitudes, and New Zealand, because it is surrounded by water.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is becoming warmer and drier due to climate change, said Harry Peterson-Nedry, founder of Chehalem Wines, which is located in the valley.

“It’s all positive in the short term,” said Peterson-Nedry, who serves on the board of directors of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

In the Willamette Valley, the vineyards are on hillsides, Peterson-Nedry said.

“Six hundred feet is no longer a maximum elevation where you can plant grapes and have them ripen,” he said. Hillside areas previously too cool for planting might now be just the right temperature, he said.

“Research over the last 20 to 30 years has gotten to the point where we can start providing climate services,” Busalacchi said.

He added his research on the effect of climate change on viticulture is a good example of what climate services are about.

“It’s not just sufficient for the climate scientist to tell the end users what they want, but you need to engage in a dialogue,” he said. “You really want to be developing products and services that would be useful and needed by the end user. Now, we’re providing guidance as to optimal growing conditions in the future.”

Busalacchi is also the director of Vino Veritas, LLC, a company that provides wine education, wine program consulting and weather and climate forecasting services to vineyards around the world.

Though he does not currently use climate services for his vineyards, Peterson-Nedry said he is interested in looking into what they could offer.

“I think that’s a good consulting relationship that people need,” he said. “It is necessary to adapt in all areas.

“There’s definitely an awareness [of climate change],” Peterson-Nedry said. “The next step should be adopting some general principles and recommendations for how to address and adapt to climate change.”

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