The grape debate: adapting to climate change in the Niagara grape and wine industry

Matheson, Laura
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University of Guelph

Scholarship suggests that the inherent sensitivity of agriculture to climatic conditions renders it among the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change. This is never more evident than with the cultivation of grapes for the production of wine (Jones et al. 2005). In light of such circumstances, adaptation is seen as essential to manage the risks and capitalize on the opportunities generated by climate change; while this fact is widely appreciated in current scholarship, little is known about how adaptation does, or might, occur. This research addresses this gap through an assessment of the vulnerability of the Niagara grape and wine industry to climate change. The results, drawn primarily from 43 in-depth interviews with grape growers and wine producers, suggest that gradual warming is introducing opportunities to respond to consumer demands for climatically-challenging varietals; while more variable weather conditions constitute a new and potentially problematic risk, most grape growers and wine producers have the means to mitigate and adapt to this risk. The weather conditions that the industry is most vulnerable to are those that impact grape growers and wine producers ability to be successful in the market place.

Grape and wine industry, Niagara, Climate change, Adapting, Vulnerability