When it comes to wine, weather matters – a lot. Produce a cabernet sauvignon at the ideal temperature and you’ll fetch a hefty $4,100/ton. Grow those grapes 5-degrees warmer and the quality demands a mere $260/ton. But price and quality don’t even begin to scratch the surface on how global warming is impacting wineries. Rather, a few degrees or a couple inches of rain can impact product mix (Pinot Noir only grows within 2-degrees and a couple of degrees distinguishes a Rhône from a cabernet), overall yield, required distribution networks – and their timing, irrigation demands, energy use, pest-control measures, and even the larger restaurant and tourism industries. OneHope, a multi-varietal vineyard in Napa Valley, California, is already feeling the heat.
The question is: will they acclimate in time to survive?
Grapes To Raisins: Napa’s Feeling The Heat
Napa Valley, which produces 85% of American wine, has already seen average temperatures rise by 1.5°F. While warmer nights have benefited some varietals, we’ve reached a threshold over which further increases are detrimental. Yet it isn’t just mean temperature winemakers should fear. Far more concerning: the increased frequency of 95°F+ days in a region known for its temperate climate. In 2017, Napa had three consecutive days over 110°F. The result: raisins. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fluke. Models predict 10 more “very hot” days per year by 2040 and an ominous study looking at the results of 17 different climate models forecasts a 70% decrease in California’s wine production by 2050.
Tasting Climate Change: OneHope’s Bite On Global Warming
While winemakers are used to varying weather, these recent extremes push the limit. Consequently, Mari Coyle, OneHope’s Director of Wine, is working to protect her prized-crop from the unprecedented heat scorching her grapes and stressing already-constrained water resources. In the short-term, she is focused on precision irrigation, innovative shading techniques, and expanded vine structure. And while she’s not yet exploring the possibility of relocating OneHope’s vineyards, it’s most-definitely on her longer-term radar. It’s not, though, yet on the mind of Jake Kloberdanz, CEO and co-founder of OneHope, who is mostly thinking about global warming “as it pertains to being thoughtful about waste and carbon emissions.” While it’s admirable to note his primary focus on reducing OneHope’s contribution to climate change – and we most definitely need more industries to turn their gaze inwards if we’re to prevent climate change’s exponential impact –I worry that by the time he pivots from mitigation to accommodation, it may be too late.
Avoiding ‘Pour’ Decisions: How OneHope Can Better Address Climate Change
If OneHope is to remain competitive, they must dramatically reconfigure their supply chain in order to accommodate changing climate conditions and weather this storm (er, heat wave). To do so, they should reconsider their inevitably-evolving product mix, work with distributors to accommodate harvest schedules that appear destined to vary, and implement new pest-control measures (using owls and falcons, perhaps), to cull the increased number of grape-eating rodents that will continue to survive warmer winters. They would also be keen to more seriously consider the use of greenhouses (such as those in crop-desserts like Iceland and Israel) as well as the acquisition of land at higher latitudes or elevations. I would urge them to investigate these more drastic relocation-based approaches sooner rather than later in order to capitalize on a first-mover advantage which would both give them prime access to land before competitors’ pounce on available property and drive-up prices and afford them additional time to establish the infrastructure required to harvest in a new location.
In the medium-term, OneHope should consider how they can employ data to anticipate and respond to climate change – and share it with all players in their supply chain. Additionally, they should explore innovative ways of weather-protecting their crops (such as in partnership with a company like Indigo) and consider partnering with co-dependent industries, such as restaurants and hotels that may be incentivized to share in some of the financial burden resulting from this reconnoitering of the supply chain. More broadly, wine’s climate sensitivity makes it an ideal warning system for other crops and thus I hope the global food supply chain is paying attention.
If OneHope is to survive – and, ideally, thrive – post-climate change, I’m left wondering: how will wine drinkers adapt to a changing industry ripe with rising prices, fewer varietals, and a trip to the vineyard now taking place in a greenhouse? And how can vineyards like OneHope work to change consumer preferences and purchasing decisions in anticipation?
 Hertsgaard, Mark. What Climate Change Means For Wine Industry. Wired. April 26, 2010.
 Donner, Paige. Winemakers Rising to Climate Challenge. New York Times, November 16, 2011.
 Cattanach, Jamie. A Wine Drinker’s Guide To Climate Change Winners And Losers. Vinepair. July 27, 2017.
 World Wildlife Magazine. Climate Change’s Impact On California Wine. Fall 2017.
 Napa Valley Vintners. Napa Vintners Release Findings of Climate Study. February 3, 2011.
 Nemani, R.R., M.A. White, D.R. Cayan, G.V. Jones, S.W. Running, J.C. Coughlan, and D.L. Peterson. 2001. Asymmetric warming over coastal California and its impact on the premium wine industry. Climate Research. 19:25-34.
 Diffenbaugh N S and Ashfaq M 2010 Intensification of hot extremes in the United States Geophys. Res. Lett. 37 L15701
 CBS San Francisco Bay Area. California Heat Wave Crushed Grape Growers’ Dreams Of Fruitful Harvest. September 10, 2017.
 Mobley, Esther. Torrid Temperatures Shrivel California Wine Grapes To Raisins. San Francisco Chronical. September 9, 2017.
 Zubryd, Sascha. Global Warming Could Significantly Alter The U.S. Premium Wine Industry Within 30 Years, Say Stanford Scientists. Stanford Report, June 30, 2011.
 White, M.A., N.S. Diffenbaugh, G.V. Jones, J.S. Pal, and F. Giorgi. 2006. Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:11217-11222.
 Robertson, Sarah. Are Barn Owls Nature’s Best Pest Control? Sierra: The National Magazine of the Sierra Club. August 20, 2016
 Gelles, David. Falcons, Drones, Data: A Winery Battles Climate Change. New York Times. January 5, 2017.
 Hertsgaard, Mark. Grapes of Wrath. The Atlantic. April 26, 2010.