In 2012, the Premonstratensian nuns in the city of Oosterhout (in the Netherlands) were having a hard time. The financial crisis and the lack of vocations made the monastery, founded in 1647, seriously think about closing its doors. Luckily, desperate, they decided to do something else: plant vines.
Now they have “so much wine that we don’t know what to do with it” and that, although it may not seem like it, is a huge problem for Spain.
Spanish wine is dying. In 2022, the heat forced Marco de Jerez to bring the harvest forward. And not a little. Last year’s was the earliest harvest since there are records. That, in the case of Jerez, a particularly well-documented wine region, is many years.
The truth is that it was not an isolated case. “The lack of rain since May and the successive waves of extreme heat ended up withering the berries and reducing their productive yield.” And faced with the possibility of losing everything, large regions of Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Catalonia also brought the harvest forward to the second half of July.
The lack of rain, on the other hand, meant that the later varieties were also delayed, waiting for water that arrived with a dropper. All in all, the lack of pests and diseases allowed the type to hold up and the campaign was only 6-7% below the previous one (and between 10-12% less than the average of the last decade). Of course, regions such as La Mancha, with more than half of the national production, remained 17% below the ten-year average.
Beyond the Pyrenees. However, if we look at Europe, the picture of relative calm changes. Because even in the context of extreme drought and suffocating heat, European production has grown and, among the large producers, only Spain had a lower harvest than the previous year.
It’s not a surprise: as we get hotter, conditions in the north improve. In 2021, for example, the frosts took their toll on French vineyards, but the “good weather” in 2022 has triggered their production with growth of 17% more.
What we will lose with Climate Change. Basically, what happens is that we are not aware of the future that climate models draw. As pointed out the meteorologist González Alemán“the question is not when it will end [la sequía]the point is that our region is especially poised to be much drier.”
While vast regions of the world will receive more precipitation as the temperature rises, our region (southwestern Europe and Macaronesia) will gradually become desertified. By landing the data, high temperatures threaten the survival of 65% of the wine-growing lands in Spain. Soon there will be many more.
Some crops increasingly vulnerable. “The storms are stronger, the droughts are more extreme, the spring frosts and heat waves are more frequent, there are also more fires… The wine sector is suffering the climatic consequences long before any other sector.” This is how Miguel A. Torres, president and co-founder of the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) explained it in El Confidencial, and he is right.
Above all, because this exhibition of the wine forces us to think with perspective. Right now, the storm can be weathered by advancing (or delaying in the case of later varieties) the harvest. However, this has many associated risks: with such unpredictable and extreme weather, the vineyards are exposed (more than before) to frost.
In winter “the bud [de la vid] it is covered with a capsule that protects it”, but now the heat has caused there to be “more plants with open buds” and that exposes them to an episode of cold at the wrong time devastating the harvest.
The path that the rest of the industries will follow. The wineries work in increasingly narrow bands and with much greater volatility. That, as it happens with the rest of the agricultural products of reference for Spain, is a huge problem. If our industry cannot respond to demand (because the cold prevents the pepper from ripening or the heat burns the olive blossom), the competition will.
So the question is… how long can we continue to be an agricultural powerhouse and what will we do about it?
In Xataka | The great disaster of Spanish olive oil: the heat is burning the flower of the olive and we can not do anything
Imagen | Thomas Schaefer