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Climate change forcing migration north: Torres

Increasingly hostile conditions associated with climate change are forcing vintners to head north, according to an internal memo from one of Spain’s largest wine producers.

Heat and drought have prompted an ‘immediate change’ in the Torres wine company of northeast Spain – specifically the search for land in the cooler regions to the north.

‘The immediate change in our company regarding climate change is the move towards the north, closer to the Pyrenees, to acquire new land,’ Torres chief Miguel Torres wrote in a December 2005 memo, which decanter.com has been sent.

The average world temperature is predicted to rise between 1C and 4.5C within the next 150 years, Torres said.

This will lead to important changes in viticulture, including a decrease in frost frequency, and increases in the photosynthetic rate, a longer growing season, and an increase in hydric stress from lack of water in the Mediterranean regions.

Other winemakers, such as Anna Martin Onzain, who owns vines all over Spain including Valencia in the south, also worry about how climate change will affect Spain’s €2bn wine industry.

‘It is going to have a very important influence on winemaking in Spain,’ she told decanter.com. ‘Every year, we see higher alcohol levels because of hotter weather, so in the future, we may have to make red wine in the north,’ she said.

Excess heat and sunlight not only lead to higher alcohol, but also ‘dangerously low acidity,’ Onzain added.

Temperatures reach over 40C in vineyards closer to the equator, and drought conditions have grilled grapes and cut yields.

‘As in example in 2005, we got a very severe drought throughout Spain and virtually no rains during the spring and the summer. As a result the harvest was very reduced,’ Torres said.

‘Of course we are trying to irrigate the vineyards by drip irrigation whenever water is available,’ he added.

‘This is a change, since in Spain traditionally the vineyards were never irrigated. At this stage we don’t foresee any change in the grapes planted, but that is something that could be reviewed in 10 years time.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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