Climate Change

Climate Change Threatens Italy's Beloved Sparkling Wine

Main image to the post Climate Change Threatens Italy's Beloved Sparkling Wine

The picturesque Asolo hills of Italy, renowned for their production of prosecco, are facing a dire crisis due to the escalating climate crisis. Farmers in the region are struggling to cope with the devastating effects of extreme weather events, which are increasingly impacting their crops.

Spring frosts have killed off delicate buds, summer storms have ravaged leaves, prolonged droughts have left vines parched, and heavy rains have triggered landslides. The once-rare hailstorms are now arriving earlier in the year and hitting with greater intensity. "It's changing so fast," lamented Paolo Ferraro from Bele Casel winery, echoing the growing sense of urgency among farmers. His grandmother's traditional practice of lighting candles and praying for good weather seems increasingly futile in the face of these relentless climate changes.

The Asolo hills are not alone in their struggle. A study published in Nature revealed that by the end of the century, 90 percent of traditional wine regions could vanish from coastal and lowland areas of Spain, Italy, Greece, and southern California due to the impacts of climate change. In the Asolo hills, heavy rains lead to landslides that bury the grape crop, while droughts prevent the soil from absorbing vital moisture. "The impact of the two extremes is one thing on a plain, but it's totally different on a steep slope," explained Paolo Tarolli, a researcher at the University of Padova who studies the effects of climate change on wine terraces.

Farmers are desperately seeking solutions to mitigate the damage. Some have adopted protective measures like covering their terraces with nets to shield the grapes from hail, while others are employing cannon-style equipment to disperse storms. Others are turning to natural solutions, like Ferraro, who uses fig trees to provide shade and cool the vines. These trees also attract a diverse range of wildlife, offer protection from strong winds, and help stabilize the soil during heavy rain.

A traditional practice that has been largely forgotten in northern Italy is the construction of small ponds on slopes to collect rainwater. These "micro water storage systems" are still prevalent in southeast Asia and East Africa, and their reintroduction could prove beneficial in mitigating the effects of drought. Despite their efforts to adapt, farmers like Valentina Pozza, export manager at Bresolin vineyard, express a sense of helplessness. "You cannot decide if there will be drought or rain or hail," she said. "You wait and hope that everything will be OK. You try to do the best you can, but it's not you who decides.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09