Photo credit: Jubilo Haku. Source:

For B.C. winemakers, it’s an exciting, if worrying, prospect: climate change pushing the continent’s best grape-growing regions north.

According to some studies, B.C.’s wine-producing regions stand to benefit from earlier harvests brought on by a warming planet.

“Grapes no longer viable in California’s Napa Valley may find suitable homes in Washington or British Columbia,” a study from Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory states. “Southern England may become the new Champagne; the hills of central China the new Chile.”

One UBC research centre is keeping a close eye on what hotter summers and earlier grape harvests mean for B.C. vintners.

As of 2015, there were 273 wineries in British Columbia, up from 17 just two decades ago. According to the Canadian Vintners Association, B.C. wine exports were an $8.3 million industry in 2014

A one degree Celsius increase in temperature typically pushes a region’s grape harvest forward one month, according to the Columbia University study. Grape harvests are also impacted by water availability, Earth surface temperature and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. While climate change could increase uncertainty for B.C. icewine—a unique dessert varietal harvested during cold snaps—some hope popular reds grown in California will become more viable.  

In a 2014 interview , UBC Wine Research Centre Associate Professor Simone Castellarin said increasing droughts are a growing concern for wine producers around the world.

“Winemakers unfamiliar with how to address this new climatic scenario face problems with their grape crop,” he said. “They rely on scientists to help come up with solutions.”

Last year, the centre received $200,000 from the non-profit research group Genome BC to study the science behind ripening.

Climate change’s impact on Canada’s wine crop is gaining federal attention. In February, Castellarin was named a Canada Research Chair in Viticulture and Plant Genomics to study how grape ripening is affected by climate. According to a release, he plans to develop new strategies for growing grapes “with the goal of producing better fruit for high quality and more valuable wine.”

By Jonny Wakefield, 23 June 2016