The index was created by a multidisciplinary European-Australian research team of engineers, seismologists, meteorologists, scientists and oenophiles, who analyzed data from 110,000 wineries in 131 countries from 1900 onwards, which produce a combined total of 26 billion liters of wine annually.
Topping the endangered list was Argentina's Mendoza region, which is subject to a veritable smorgasbord of grape growing obstacles — earthquakes, hail, floods and the more. From there, the most at-risk regions are as follows: Kakheti and Racha in Georgia, the Cahul in Moldova, northwestern Slovenia, and tied for fifth are Yaraqui Valley in Ecuador and Nagano, Japan.
In terms of the biggest threats in the world's biggest wine producing countries, Italy (which produces 4.9 billion liters per year) is under threat from hail, frost and earthquakes (although volcanoes, flash floods, and climatic effects also can play a role). In France (4.2 billion liters), frost, hail and storms. In Spain (3.8 billion liters), hail, frost and heat, the US (2.25 billion liters), frost, earthquakes, storms, and Australia (1.25 billion liters), frost, storm, hail and bushfires.
The researchers predict wine regions will generally shift both southward and northward — Southern Italy and Southern Spain will see the biggest losses, and some regions closer to the equator may be lost entirely.
The data is intended to assist winemakers make better decisions about their grapes, to stave off the deleterious effects of climate change. Included are some methods for dealing with the problem, such as anti-hail nets in vineyards, tying up stored wine bottles to withstand the shock of an earthquake, using a "hail cannon" as France's Burgundy region is doing to seed clouds with stone-shrinking silver iodine, or simply just taking out comprehensive insurance policies.
Every year, the wine industry loses tens of billion US dollars due to damaged assets, production losses, and lost profits as a result of extreme weather events and natural disasters.
For instance, the hail losses from 2012 to 2016 in some vineyards totaled 50 — 90 percent of the value of the crop and caused long-term damage to many old vines, producing both single and multiple vintages.
Between 2010 and 2016, earthquakes struck Chile, New Zealand, and the USA, among other smaller events causing damage around the world. Over 125 million liters of wine were lost in Chile alone in 2010, due to the failure of equipment (such as tanks and barrels) as a result of a quake. Even small tremors can cause huge losses, destroying tasting rooms and rare wine collections.
Still, it's not all doom and gloom — climate change can have positive effects on the wine industry too. The researchers expect many wines may actually improve, with English, Canadian, and Northern China wine regions likely to increase production markedly and continue to improve their market share and quality of production.
Beyond the trauma of the world's wine market being significantly depleted in quality, the economic impact could be catastrophic — wine contributes a staggering US$300 billion to the global economy every year — although it's debatable whether such developments, or their prospect, will inspire make policymakers or the public wake up and smell the "rose" and prompt greater action on climate change.