Why has wine escaped the water wars debate?

Whilst the effect of climate change on viticulture is immense, cultural traditions and consumer attachment to this luxury commodity has protected it from scrutiny and its role in the world’s water wars.

With the present 2°C limit imposing new “planetary boundaries” and pitting science against politics (von Storch and Krauss 2013), I would suggest that in the context of viticulture, the greater conflict is between science and culture.  It is the failure to shift cultural perceptions of wine that risks slowing down its adaptation survival options, which are already limited by the built-in time-line of the vine.

The link between social systems and food production systems in the context of wine production is a tenuous one. Wine is not often viewed as a “crop”.

Vineyards are often portrayed as glamorous holiday destinations as opposed to places of agricultural production. The consumer views wine production as a benign “past-time”, heavy with emotional attachments to historical and cultural allegories. Who dreams of retiring and moving to India to start a tea plantation or to Columbia to grow coffee?

Wine producers also exhibit this behaviour of strong attachment. Theirs is either to historical and traditional regional practices or to profit and production-enhancing practices. Both mindsets retard the needed response to adaptation and mitigation.

Further, the majority of viticultural discourse, whether it be of consumer, wine producer or scientific origin, is productivity/yield focused, with the cause and effect relationship between yields and quality being poorly understood and usually misrepresented. This disconnect skewers the findings of many scientific papers on the topic, as the authors’ approach is most often from a pure agricultural perspective (quantity) rather than a viticultural one (quality).

For true climate action in viticulture, for true SUSTAINABILITY, we are going to have to unwrap wine from its cosy protective layering … she has to take off her mink coat!