Wine is a $30 billion industry worldwide. And a changing climate presents real challenges to producers: some of the world’s best wine-producing regions may become “too warm to grow high-quality wine grapes.” Scientists are working hard to protect the industry…and UC Davis researcher Andrew Walker is at the forefront.
Walker is trying to create new grapes that are heat-resistant..and that can make quality wine. He’s using classical breeding techniques in combination with molecular genetics. Walker and his team are “developing genetic maps that pinpoint the mutations necessary for improved quality, climatic adaptation and increased pest and disease resistance.”
Slate recently interviewed Walker:
“The primary goal of my research is to provide new varieties and rootstocks that are better able to resist … diseases, and adapt to a wider range of soil and water regimes,” said Walker.
Although climate change is the driving force, Walker predicts the end result could be a new “golden age” in winemaking.
What might a “golden age” mean to wine drinkers? Wine will change, and so will the varieties we drink. Think blended grape varieties – hybrid wines – that could include several different kinds of grapes. Other benefits to producers (and consumers) might be the ability of traditional wine-producing regions to stay put as climate changes and reduced pesticide use. It might even mean expanding grape cultivation into locations that previously weren’t tenable due to concerns about disease.
Walker’s work is part of the University of California’s Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the institution’s resources address one of the most compelling issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population.