Authors: Kate Gannon, Steve Dorling, Alistair Nesbitt, Declan Conway, Naylei Pena and Johannes Borchert

Climate change is transforming the face of global wine production, causing declines in some regions and presenting opportunities in others – the UK among them. However, the UK sector, a relative newcomer to winemaking in the modern era, faces challenges in adapting to climate change too.

This policy brief sets out the nature of these challenges and what more needs to be done to enhance resilience to climate change in UK viticulture. It draws from findings from the multi-partner CREWS-UK project.

Main messages

  • The UK wine industry is now producing award-winning, internationally recognised wines, with warming temperatures a key factor in the industry’s recent growth. Wine production is thus often seen as a rare sector in the UK for which climate change presents an opportunity.
  • However, climate change will continue to pose wide-ranging challenges to wine production too: it is already leading to greater variability in growing conditions and more extreme weather events.
  • The sector is working proactively to respond to climate change. Business leaders are embedding plans to cope with its impacts into their strategic decision-making and a range of sector-wide initiatives are recognising its significance. Even so, some of the ways in which the sector is developing may limit its resilience to changing conditions in the future.
  • A rapidly warming climate means that over the next 20–30 years (within the commercially productive lifespan of a vine) growers and winemakers will need to take significant additional steps to enhance future resilience to climate change.
  • Adaptive action could include making further changes to the grape varieties and wine styles being produced and increasing investment in the marketing of still wine.
  • Climate change adaptation should also be placed at the heart of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification requirements to avoid creating inflexible regulations that do not maximise the opportunities for viticulture under a changing climate and which risk early decisions having costly impacts later.
  • As the UK wine sector continues to expand rapidly, climate variability could lead to periods of oversupply, impacting markets and prices for producers and the wider value chain – unless significant investment is made to establish new markets for UK wine.

The following video highlights some of the findings from the policy brief

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