Cli­mate study on the nose for Que­bec

Warm­ing a boon to province’s wine: sci­en­tists

Edmonton Journal - - CANADA - Graeme Hamil­ton Na­tional Post ghamil­ton@na­tion­al­post.com Twit­ter.com/gray­hamil­ton

MON­TREAL • With sci­en­tists warn­ing of more fre­quent ex­treme weather like the flood­ing cur­rently af­flict­ing Que­bec, it is hard to find peo­ple in the province putting a pos­i­tive spin on cli­mate change.

But a pa­per pub­lished this week in the jour­nal Cli­matic Change con­cludes warm­ing tem­per­a­tures will be a boon for a Que­bec wine in­dus­try that lags well be­hind its coun­ter­parts in On­tario, Bri­tish Columbia and even Nova Sco­tia.

Within a lit­tle more than 20 years, most of south­ern Que­bec “can rea­son­ably ex­pect favourable cli­matic con­di­tions” for wine pro­duc­tion, sci­en­tists with a Que­bec cli­mate-change re­search con­sor­tium write.

The range for hy­brid grapes cur­rently grown will ex­pand, and con­di­tions will favour ex­panded plant­ing of such old-world va­ri­eties as Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir. While re­searchers limited their anal­y­sis to Que­bec, they say sim­i­lar changes can be ex­pected in other Cana­dian provinces.

“Cur­rently most of the grapes grown in Que­bec are hy­brids, grapes that are strongly adapted to a north­ern cli­mate,” Philippe Roy, a cli­mate sce­nar­ios spe­cial­ist at the Ou­ra­nos con­sor­tium and lead au­thor of the study, said in an in­ter­view.

Such va­ri­eties as Fron­tenac and Sey­val may be hardy, but they have failed to win over Que­bec wine drinkers. Less than one per cent of the 225 mil­lion bot­tles of wine con­sumed in the province an­nu­ally are home­grown.

“What the study in­di­cates is that in the com­ing decades there is a pretty good po­ten­tial to be able to grow Euro­pean vines — not all of them, not Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, for ex­am­ple — but Pinot Noir, Ga­may, Chardon­nay,” Roy said.

While Que­bec could ben­e­fit, cli­mate change has pro­duc­ers in tra­di­tional wine­grow­ing coun­tries fear­ful. A 2006 study con­cluded that Cal­i­for­nia could lose up to 81 per cent of its pre­mium wine-grape acreage by the end of the cen­tury. Spain, the third largest wine pro­ducer in Europe, is al­ready adapt­ing grow­ing prac­tices to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures. On­tario’s in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned icewines could be jeop­ar­dized by early win­ter warm spells.

Us­ing mod­els pro­duced by the World Cli­mate Re­search Pro­gram, the Ou­ra­nos re­searchers teamed with re­searchers at the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral agri­cul­ture de­part­ments to ex­am­ine how the grow­ing sea­son is likely to evolve in dif­fer­ent re­gions of Que­bec.

They project that by 2040-50, an in­crease in frost-free days and in over­all tem­per­a­tures will see the area suit­able for wine grapes ex­pand to cover most of the St. Lawrence Val­ley as well as the south­ern Ot­tawa Val­ley. The Mon­térégie re­gion south of Mon­treal will re­main the prime wine-grow­ing zone, with in­creased po­ten­tial for Pinot Noir and Chardon­nay.

In or­der to profit from the warmer sum­mers, the re­searchers write, Que­bec wine­grow­ers will have to use mit­i­ga­tion meth­ods to pro­tect vines against ex­treme cold snaps that will not en­tirely dis­ap­pear.

Yvan Quirion, pres­i­dent of the Que­bec Wine­grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said he wor­ries cli­mate change will re­sult in more ex­tremes that will only com­pli­cate things.

He dis­puted the no­tion that Que­bec’s cli­mate has been ham­per­ing the wine in­dus­try, blam­ing in­stead a pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment that was slow to pro­vide the sup­port seen in On­tario and B.C.

“It wasn’t the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal cli­mate that was hold­ing back our in­dus­try,” Quirion said. “It was the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.”

He also said con­sumer at­ti­tudes need to change for Que­bec winer­ies to truly thrive. “In Que­bec, ev­ery­one takes for granted that some­thing that comes from abroad is al­ways bet­ter than what we pro­duce here — un­til you win a medal from a for­eign coun­try, and then you’re re­ally some­thing,” he said.

Roy ac­knowl­edges that his glass-half-full mes­sage is not al­ways well re­ceived. An au­di­ence of col­lege stu­dents re­cently ac­cused him of be­ing in favour of cli­mate change.

“Ob­vi­ously, that’s not my opin­ion. I don’t think it’s some­thing that is good. How­ever, there are eco­nomic choices that have to be made in the com­ing decades,” he said.

“There are dis­ad­van­tages, but we also have to look at pos­si­ble ad­van­tages. It’s a mat­ter of be­ing well po­si­tioned while try­ing to re­duce emis­sions as much as pos­si­ble emis­sions. We can do both.”

PO­TEN­TIAL TO BE ABLE TO GROW EURO­PEAN VINES.

DARIO AYALA / THE GAZETTE

An in­crease in frost-free days in com­ing years could ben­e­fit Que­bec’s vine­yards such as this one in Farn­ham.

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