Since the 1980s global regime shift, grape growers have been steadily adapting to a changing climate. These adaptations have preserved the region-climate-cultivar rapports that have established the global trade of wine with lucrative economic benefits since the middle of 17th century. The advent of using fractions of crop and actual evapotranspiration replacement in vineyards with the use of supplemental irrigation has furthered the adaptation of wine grape cultivation. The shift in trellis systems, as well as pruning methods from positioned shoot systems to sprawling canopies, as well as adapting the bearing surface from head-trained, cane-pruned to cordon-trained, spur-pruned systems have also aided in the adaptation of grapevine to warmer temperatures. In warm climates, the use of shade cloth or over-head shade films not only have aided in arresting the damage of heat waves, but also identified opportunities to reduce the evapotranspiration from vineyards, reducing environmental footprint of vineyard. Our increase in knowledge on how best to understand the response of grapevine to climate change was aided with the identification of solar radiation exposure biomarker that is now used for phenotyping cultivars in their adaptability to harsh environments. Using fruit-based metrics such as sugar-flavonoid relationships were shown to be better indicators of losses in berry integrity associated with a warming climate, rather than solely focusing on region-climate-cultivar rapports. The resilience of wine grape was further enhanced by exploitation of rootstock × scion combinations that can resist untoward droughts and warm temperatures by making more resilient grapevine combinations. Our understanding of soil-plant-atmosphere continuum in the vineyard has increased within the last 50 years in such a manner that growers are able to use no-till systems with the aid of arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi inoculation with permanent cover cropping making the vineyard more resilient to droughts and heat waves. In premium wine grape regions viticulture has successfully adapted to a rapidly changing climate thus far, but berry based metrics are raising a concern that we may be approaching a tipping point.
Author: S. Kaan Kurtural
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, USA