Is wine terroir a valid concept under a changing climate?

The OIV[i] defines terroir as a concept referring to an area in which collective knowledge of the interactions between the physical and biological environment (soil, topography, climate, landscape characteristics and biodiversity features) and vitivinicultural practices develops, providing distinctive wine characteristics. Those are perceptible in the taste of wine, which drives consumer preference and, therefore, wine’s value in the marketplace. Geographical indications (GI) are recognized regulatory constructs formalizing and protecting the nexus between wine taste and the terroir generating it. Despite considering updates, GIs do not consider the nexus as a dynamic one and do not anticipate change, namely of climate. Being climate a fundamental feature of terroir, it strongly impacts wine characteristics, such as taste. According to IPCC[ii], many widespread, rapid and unprecedented changes of climate occurred, some being irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years. Climatic shifts and atmospheric-driven extreme events have been widely reported worldwide. Recent climatic trends are projected to strengthen in upcoming decades, whereas extremes are expected to increase in frequency and intensity, forcing wines away from GI definitions. Geographical shifts of viticultural suitability are projected, often moving into regions and countries different from current ones. Some authors propose adaptation in viticulture, winemaking and product innovation. We show evidence of climate changing wine characteristics in the Douro valley, home of 270-year-old Port GI. We discuss herein resist or adapt stances for when climate changes the nexus between terroir and wine characteristics. Using the MED-GOLD[iii] dashboard, a tool allowing for easy visual navigation of past and future climates, we demonstrate how policymakers can identify future moments, throughout the 21st century under different emission scenarios, when GI specifications will likely need updates (e.g., boundaries, varieties) to reduce climate-change impacts.

Authors: António Graça1, Marta Teixeira1, Sara Silva1, João Antunes1, Ilaria Vigo2, Raul Marcos2, Konstantinos V. Varotsos3, Christos Giannakopoulos3, João A. Santos4, Natacha Fontes1 and Alessandro dell’Aquila5

1Sogrape Vinhos S.A., Avintes, Portugal 
2Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, Barcelona, Spain
3Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, National Observatory of Athens, Greece
4UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal
5ENEA, Roma, Italy


Keywords: terroir, GI, climate, adaptation, resilience, risk

[i] International Organization for Vine and Wine,

[ii] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

[iii] MED-GOLD H2020 Project,

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