Upward shifts in elevation – a winning strategy for mountain viticulture in the context of climate change?
Egarter Vigl L
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The advent of global climate change has major impacts upon viticultural production. Changes in the spatial limits of wine production are already being observed around the globe; vineyards are now viable at higher elevations and more polar latitudes. Climatic conditions are also threatening production in existing appellations. Therefore, sound management strategies are vital to maintain high-quality wines and varietal typicity, and to respond to changing market conditions. In mountainous regions such as the European Alps, new production areas at higher elevations are increasingly considered to be a promising solution. However, the suitability of viticulture in general, and even specific varieties of wine grapes, can change drastically across short distances in complex mountain terrain. Variations in temperature and radiation accumulation directly influence plant suitability, yield quantity, and quality. This paper shares initial findings from the REBECKA Project, a transnational research initiative designed to assess the impacts of climate change on mountain viticulture and wine quality in South Tyrol (Italy) and Carinthia (Austria). A three-part approach is utilized to better assess these dynamics: (1) historical crop yield data from local vineyards are assessed, (2) plant phenology stages and polyphenolic compounds of the Pinot Noir variety are analyzed along an elevation gradient and related to bioclimatic indices, and (3) a suitability map is developed that considers small-scale topographic and agro-environmental conditions. Taken together, these components contribute in clarifying many of the opportunities and threats facing high altitude viticulture in a changing world and provide new insights for sound decision-making in alpine vineyards.