Wine prices look­ing hot­ter

Re­search sug­gests that la­bor costs are likely to go up as a re­sult of global warm­ing

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ALEX WHITING

Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion * Global warm­ing may hit wine lovers where it hurts the most – the pocket – as ris­ing tem­per­a­tures are likely to in­crease la­bor costs in Europe’s vine­yards, re­searchers said on Thursday.

In the hills be­hind Cyprus’s coastal city of Li­mas­sol, grape pick­ers work in aver­age peak tem­per­a­tures of 36 de­grees Cel­sius (97 de­grees F) in Au­gust, a month when much of the har­vest is brought in.

Re­searchers car­ry­ing out a smallscale study found that in the heat, la­bor loss rose as much as 27 per­cent and there was a 15 per­cent drop in the amount of time la­bor­ers were able to work.

If tem­per­a­tures rise be­cause of global warm­ing, labour costs are likely to fol­low suit, said An­dreas Flouris of the School of Ex­er­cise Science at the Uni­ver­sity of Thes­saly in Greece.

“I would not be sur­prised to see the same re­sults be­ing re­peated in Cal­i­for­nia, across south­ern Europe and in Aus­tralia. The en­vi­ron­ment where vines grow is more or less the same,” Flouris said, adding there is no ev­i­dence yet to con­firm this for cer­tain.

Wine is one of Cyprus’s main agri­cul­tural ex­ports and is very la­bor in­ten­sive with vines be­ing tended and har­vested by hand. But if vine­yard own­ers are made aware of the prob­lem in ad­vance, they can of­fer rel­a­tively sim­ple ways to help work­ers cope, Flouris told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

Sim­ple changes like en­cour­ag­ing la­bor­ers to dress in light and bright cloth­ing which re­flects the sun’s ra­di­a­tion and does not ab­sorb the heat as much would make a dif­fer­ence, Flouris said. “They tend to wear a lot more (cloth­ing) than they should,” he said.

Other so­lu­tions in­clude of­fer­ing cold drinks and break­ing up their shifts so they can rest when tem­per­a­tures reach their peak each day. “The idea is to have some low-cost so­lu­tions that ... will have a ma­jor im­pact on the pro­duc­tiv­ity of these work­ers,” said Flouris.

In the study, pub­lished in the Tem­per­a­ture jour­nal and the first of its kind in Europe the re­searchers say, Flouris and oth­ers fol­lowed work­ers at four sep­a­rate vine­yards.

In some cases the vine­yard own­ers them­selves were not aware of the ex­tent of the drop in pro­duc­tiv­ity – maybe be­cause they too were af­fected by the heat, Flouris said.

Ris­ing heat is also af­fect­ing the taste of wine in some ar­eas.

In the Greek is­land of Crete, one wine­grower said in­creas­ingly er­ratic rain­fall and higher tem­per­a­tures are hurt­ing the qual­ity of grapes on her fam­ily’s es­tate.

Rain­fall now usu­ally lands in very short bursts in the win­ter, run­ning off the soil sur­face so lit­tle is ab­sorbed by the vines. And higher tem­per­a­tures have short­ened the grow­ing sea­son in some years, re­duc­ing the qual­ity of those vin­tages, said Maria Tami­o­laki of the Rhous win­ery which pro­duces dry white, red and rose wines.

“If this con­tin­ues, we might need to plant vines in higher al­ti­tudes to get later mat­u­ra­tion and less heat, and maybe choose grape va­ri­eties that take longer to ma­ture,” she said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

Other vine­grow­ers in Crete who can­not plant higher up could ir­ri­gate their vines to help slow their growth, Tami­o­laki said. “Most wine grow­ers in Crete do not have ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems yet so it’s very dif­fi­cult for them to fight very hot pe­ri­ods,” she said. “They need to in­vest in ir­ri­ga­tion in their vines in order to fight the big heat.” * The Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion is the char­i­ta­ble arm of Thom­son Reuters, that cov­ers hu­man­i­tar­ian news, cli­mate change, re­silience, women’s rights, traf­fick­ing and prop­erty rights.

En­cour­ag­ing la­bor­ers to dress in light and bright cloth­ing would make a dif­fer­ence, says An­dreas Flouris.

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