Climate change is threatening Prosecco vineyards: “The vine is like a thermometer”

Author: CBS NEWS
Climate change could have impact on prosecco. Photo via CBS News

Climate change is threatening centuries of Italian tradition in this region famed for Prosecco. Paolo Tomasella said extreme weather is posing new challenges at his vineyard, Tenute Tomasella.

“Climate change is a big problem,” Tomasella told CBS News correspondent Seth Doane, adding, “When it’s hot, it’s very hot. When it’s raining, it rain very much.”

Prosecco, he explained, should have low alcohol and high acidity, but high temperatures and earlier ripening produce the opposite effect. So Tomasella is testing new techniques and letting Italian government scientist, Diego Tomasi, use the vineyard as a sort of laboratory.

“The climate change is making effect on the acidity – because more temperature means also low acidity,” Tomasi said.

Tomasi showed us grapes that have burned on the vine. Winemakers are sometimes forced to harvest weeks earlier – in the hottest months – which can produce different aromas and flavors.

“The vine is like a thermometer. It’s very sensitive to temperature,” Tomasi said.

At Italy’s CREA Research Center, they’re hearing from winemakers who are planting at higher elevations and have discovered the timing between growing stages is now shorter.

“Why do you blame climate change?” Doane asked.

“Because, of course, the soil is more or less the same, the variety is more or less the same. And so everything we are discovering now depends the climate,” Tomasi said.

Which at Tenute Tomasella means making some adjustments like cutting back foliage to stop photosynthesis – a way to reduce the amount of alcohol that comes from the grapes – and piping nitrogen into the water to boost acidity.

Growers could plant new vines better suited to changing climactic conditions. But new vines take years to produce and ultimately change the character of a wine and a place as climate change creeps into yet another aspect of life.

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