Prosecco could be wiped out by climate change, research finds
Prosecco the UKs favourite sparkling wine could be wiped out by , according to new research. Mountainside vineyards where the grapes that go into the bubbly beverage are produced are most at risk from soil degradation and drought, say scientists. The phenomenon also applies to other famous vintages including Burgundy, Grand Cru and Cabernet Sauvignon, the world's most popular red. Study lead author Dr Paolo Tarolli, of the University of Padova in Italy, said: The risk is not only losing an agricultural product or seeing a landscape change, negatively impacting the local economy. The risk is losing entire communities' history and their cultural roots, Dr Tarolli and colleagues write in the journal iScience. The soils on mountain vineyards are usually thin and eroded, and over millions of years, erosion has carried soils and water downhill. But the mountainous terrain is key to creating flavour in wines. Mountain soils lead to grapes that are small, like blueberries, but which have a higher ratio of skin to juice. Because so much aroma, flavour, and tannin are lodged in the skins, mountain wines often have intense flavours. But the hillside vineyards of Italy, Portugal, and Spain are also the most difficult to maintain coining the expression 'heroic viticulture'. Farmers and scientists must work together to save some of the world's most celebrated wines, said the Italian team. Dr Tarolli said: The great effort required to manage these areas reinforces the specific human-environment connection. This is why they are recognised as cultural uniquenesses of primary historical and social importance, where traditional knowledge is still the determining element. Mountain vineyards get a lot of sun because of their elevation from early in the day and are usually cooler than lowland sites. Despite getting bathed in sunshine, the grapes don't bake in heat. This gives the final wine balance and a sense of freshness, the authors said. The study lists poor soil and less rain as the biggest threat to the industry. Possible solutions to prevent soil loss includes growing grass in between the vines to hold the soil together and to collect rainwater in hillside tanks to prevent runoff. Dr Tarolli said: The last half past century has been characterised by rural exodus and a gradual abandonment of mountain landscapes. But labour shortages are also an issue, the study said. The new generation is unwilling to continue working under extreme conditions if economic benefits are insignificant. The growing popularity of prosecco comes at high cost with an enormous amount of soil lost across steep hillsides. Demand has soared by more than a third in five years, the fastest of any sparkling wine, with champagne showing only around 1 per cent growth over the same time period. While Italian vineyards are threatened, rising temperatures could benefit grape growers in the UK. A recent report, Climate Resilience in the UK Wine Sector, found that rising temperatures over the coming years could make Britain a major player in quality wine production with higher temperatures increasing the amount of sugar in UK grapes to help better wine quality and higher alcohol content.