The Finger Lakes are well known for their award-winning wineries and spectacular views. The communities surrounding the Finger Lakes use the lakes for drinking water, fishing, and more. The wineries also rely on the lake to enrich their soil and help their grapes grow. If the water is contaminated due to harmful pesticides and greenhouse gas emissions, it can negatively affect the whole lake and everyone who depends on it.
Grape vines can last up to 40 years and it takes just the right climate to maximize the grapes’ growth and production. The wineries in the Finger Lakes region have picked a variety of grapes to plant due to the climate and soil composition in that area, but when climate change is affecting the climate, it has grave consequences for the grapes.
These are the major factors that go into grape production:
- Amount of rainfall per year
- Temperature at day and night
- Severity of winter snowfall
- The intensity of the sun
When climate change makes the summer hotter and the winters colder, the grapes that these wineries have been growing for years now may not be able to withstand the weather. Take dry Riesling wine, for example. The Finger Lakes region is famous for this type of white wine, but in order for the grapes to thrive they need to be grown in the cool climate of the Finger Lakes region. With the hot summers that we’ve been having, the heat can have a huge environmental impact on these wineries which might not be able to sustain the quality of their dry Rieslings. The amount of sun and the intensity of it, affects the sugars and acids in the grapes.
Although wine isn’t an essential needed for human survival, it is an important staple that is rooted in our history. Grapes for wine are grown in such narrow climate range, and the industry is paying attention to the weather and the gradual climate changes that are occurring. Any shift in climate will affect the grapes, as far as taste, texture and since the conditions have to be just right for wine making, the wine industry is at the mercy of our ever changing climate.
Some wine makers in the Finger Lakes are taking on the climate change challenge by ensuring that there is less erosion from the rise in violent storms in the summer. One way to combat this is to install drainage systems and irrigation pipes underground as well as planting other crops alongside the vineyards. In the winter, wind machines are used to ward off the cold wind patterns.
Farmers and Winemakers are reluctant to invest in new varieties of grapes that may do better in this warmer climate we are experiencing because it is a chance and their experience tells them that the only thing that is truly predictable in the vineyards is the unpredictability of the outcome. That being said, if climate change continues and New York State becomes slightly warmer, we will have a longer growing season which will be an optimal hotspot for some European and Californian grape varieties to thrive. If this happens, wine makers will need to re-invest in different varietal hybrids that will withstand the changing climate, to keep their businesses going. It is safe to say that the varieties of wine we love and cherish today, may be very different ten years from now.
We regularly have NY State wine tastings in store so be sure to keep an eye on our Events page for details!