Planning for the Future of Climate Change at Apu
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
In “Start Planning for the Future”, Chris Boiling discusses the effects of climate change on many traditional wine regions. In this blog, we will demonstrate how several aspects of Boiling's investigation apply to Apu Winery.
Boiling suggests higher altitudes could provide new opportunities in the face of climate change. We are the first to grow grapes and produce wine at these altitudes in the Peruvian Andes. The combination of altitude, limestone soils, rainfall, climate, and thermal amplitude make this an ideal place for new vineyards. We hope other wine producers address the urgency of climate change by investing in the Peruvian Andes.
Warming temperatures have also proven to be detrimental to grapes by harming "grape composition, including color, taste and aroma" (Boiling). According to a study conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a more than 1° Celsius (2° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975 (World). While this rate of change is undoubtedly detrimental and alarming, we view it as a double-edged sword. Growing grapes on these steep slopes has been made possible because of the warming temperatures. We have warm days and cool nights here, the typical climate at this altitude in the Peruvian Andes.
It was not a coincidence that our land was a dense forest when we bought it; many locals have claimed that the plot was too cold for crops in the past. It is clear that because temperatures have raised at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade since 1975 (World), our vines are now thriving on these once-inhospitable slopes.
Another issue addressed by Boiling is drought. This is currently not a concern at Apu Winery. Because of the heavy rains during rainy season, our plants receive plenty of water. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, precipitation in the eastern slopes of the central Andes in Peru ranges from 500-2000mm annually.
Despite this abundance, we recognize the importance of protecting this precious resource and have invested significantly in infrastructure, using a system of reservoirs, irrigation and drips to conserve rainwater. In addition, we teach conservation to the community and look to the past for answers on how to conserve and maximize our water supply (read this blog post for more information).
Furthermore, during dry season, typically from March through August, we can tap a seemingly endless supply of glacial runoff. However, the detrimental impact of melting glaciers in Peru has compelled us to explore options for dry farming. As Boiling proves, this is a viable option because vineyards can use 50% of the irrigation water normally used by grape crops without compromising flavor, color and sugar content.
Boiling also mentions that vintners can offset the effects of climate change by using rootstocks such as 140 Ruggeri, 110 Richter, and M4 because they are drought-resistant and tolerant to water stress. We opted for Fercal rootstock. In addition to being one of the most adequate for limestone soils, the Fercal rootstock is also resistant to chlorosis, downy mildew and anthracnosis, which has helped us combat diseases during rainy season and thus, successfully grow grapes in this new region.
Coincidentally, our rootstock choice has proven to be effective in offsetting the effects of climate change because it delays the ripening of grapes. A study completed by vinegrowers in Alsace, France, demonstrated that Fercal rootstocks delay ripening one week longer than SO4 and up to 2 weeks later than 3309 (Wine Growers).
Accelerated ripening has become an issue with rising temperatures. It is well known that grapes that ripen too quickly produce a less desirable wine with more alcohol, a duller color and a taste like jam or cooked fruit. By delaying this process, grapes ripen in cooler conditions and develop the necessary balance of sugar, color, and tannins.
Finally, we changed our pruning techniques to adapt to the effects of global warming, another point addressed in "Start Planning for the Future". We trained our plants to follow the schedule of the northern hemisphere by pruning in January and harvesting in September. By removing growth from the vines before rainy season, we avoid fungi caused by moisture and humidity. This was a hard lesson to learn after fungi killed all our original vines, forcing us to replant our vineyards in 2014.
In summary, while Apu's vineyards exist because of warming caused by climate change, we are well-aware of the necessity to plan for the future. In the end, we hope our efforts ensure centuries of sustainable grape-growing on these slopes and conservation of Earth's most precious resources.
Boiling, Chris. “Start Planning for the Future.” IWC, 19 Nov. 2021, https://www.internationalwinechallenge.com/Canopy-Articles/start-planning-for-the-future.html?utm_source=canopy_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=02-11-2021.
Martínez de Toda, F. “Global Warming Allows Two Grape Crops a Year, with about Two Months Apart in Ripening Dates and with Very Different Grape Composition.” Vitis, vol. 60, 2021, pp. 119–124., https://doi.org/10.5073/vitis.2021.60.119-124.
Riveros Salcedo, Juan Carlos. “Eastern South America: Eastern Slopes of the Central Andes in Peru.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/nt0153.
Rootstocks for Grafted Vines, https://www.winegrowers.info/rootstocks/home.htm.
“Slowing down Grape Ripening Can Improve Fruit Quality for Winemaking.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 30 June 2021, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210630091404.htm.
“World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal.” World Bank Group, https://climateknowledgeportal.worldbank.org/country/peru/climate-data-historical.
“World of Change: Global Temperatures.” NASA, NASA, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures.