Discover how vineyards adapt to climate change by harmonizing traditional and innovative approaches with collective actions, with Maison Arnaud Boué showcasing the large-scale production of its exceptional wines with sustainable practices
The wine industry has long been associated with tradition, luxury, and indulgence. However, beneath the veneer of elegance lies a sector particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which threatens a global business that accounted for $489 Billion in 2021.
Grapevines are one of the world’s most climate-sensitive crops. Rising temperatures can significantly alter wine flavors and characteristics, affecting production quality and consistency. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, floods, and record temperatures have become increasingly common, impacting wine producers worldwide. However, the issue is most acute in Europe, accounting for 45% of the planet's wine-growing areas.
A prime example is the Rhône Valley in France, where climatic changes have caused a dramatic shift in the local vine cycle. Intricately tied to temperature variations, the vine cycle has experienced a significant acceleration. Budburst, which marks the start of bud growth, now takes place 15 days earlier than it did half a century ago. The onset of other essential stages, like flowering, occurs on average 12 days earlier. “Veraison” (the period when grapes change color and initiate ripening) and subsequent harvest now unfold approximately 18 days ahead of previous schedules.
While vineyard operators have anticipated the changes, its rapid pace has left many grappling with the consequences. With grapes maturing faster, determining optimal harvest times becomes increasingly difficult. The new weather patterns lead to smaller grapes, resulting in sweeter wines with a higher alcohol content. To maintain wine quality, producers must adapt their practices to account for these climate-change-induced shifts in vineyard cultivation.
In response to the challenges posed by climate change, many winemakers have embraced sustainability as a core principle in their operations. Employing chemicals and artificial additives to manage grape growth can potentially address the shifts in climate. Yet they come with a cost, adversely affecting the wine’s organoleptic qualities (color, taste, smell, and texture). As a result, organic and regenerative farming practices have gained considerable traction by reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, promoting biodiversity, and improving soil health, all of which represent a shift in modern winemaking practices.
Maison Arnaud Boué, a company within the 2Future portfolio, stands out for its commitment to using organic farming and biodynamics to produce its outstanding wines. Organic agricultural practices avoid using synthetic products entirely by replacing them with alternative practices like tillage or grassing and employing only a select few oenological products during winemaking.
Biodynamic viticulture, a philosophy deeply rooted in holistic agricultural practices, emphasizes the ecosystem balance and the interdependence of soils, plants, and animals. This method considers celestial rhythms and lunar cycles for planting, cultivating, and harvesting, while specific preparations enrich the soil and enhance plant vitality. This approach strongly emphasizes the harmonious relationship between the vineyard and its surrounding environment, aiming to create a self-sustaining and diverse ecosystem.
Wine producers have also been increasingly adopting agroforestry. Also known as vitiforestry, this approach involves, among other practices, incorporating native trees and shrubs into the plots and/or borders of vineyards. This practice contributes significantly to a healthier ecosystem. Trees enhance water retention and overall soil quality by providing essential nutrients through decomposing leaves and loosening the soil with their roots. They also enrich insect diversity, which increases cross-pollination. Furthermore, the trees act as natural windbreaks, limit frost, and offer shade, helping to moderate extreme temperatures. Scientific studies confirm that increasing the range of plants and animals lessens the impact climate change has on crops.
Winemakers have also noticed that these practices can positively impact the flavor and aroma of wines. Numerous winegrowers praise an “added freshness” to the wines produced through vitiforestry. Research from the INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment) indicates that agroforestry can, in fact, moderate rapid grape ripening and foster enhanced aromatic development.
By 2021, 75% of the Bordeaux vineyards area had been certified organic through an environmental approach. This marks a collective stride towards sustainability, reflecting a growing trend of collaborative eco-efforts across various French terroirs. For instance, the Arbres et Paysages en Gironde association actively promotes the creation of rural hedgerows and trees. Simultaneously, Big Ensemble seeks to plant 300,000 trees within Bordeaux vineyards by 2024, aiming to get all properties in the region involved by 2030.
Other international initiatives that transcend the boundaries of individual vineyards include the Porto Protocol, which serves as a non-profit platform encompassing the entire viticultural value chain. Through practical insights and shared knowledge, this initiative empowers the wine sector to collectively address climate change and promote sustainable practices. Similarly, the IWCA (International Wineries for Climate Action) is a collective alliance of wineries dedicated to decarbonizing the global wine industry.
Broader certifications such as the B-Corp—which validates business practices beyond just operations to cover ingredients, the supply chain, and community and worker impacts, among other practices—are also gaining prominence among winemakers worldwide.
The highlighted examples showcase how industries can transform and adapt to safeguard our planet's future through a combination of individual actions, collective efforts, and a mix of traditional and innovative practices. The collective journey toward wine industry sustainability stands as a compelling model for other sectors, demonstrating the feasibility of large-scale production that minimizes harm to the planet while preserving product quality.