Heading for the Hills: Spanish Winemakers Adapt to Global Warming

My piece on how some winemakers are preparing for a warmer future was just published in Time.

When the Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres was a young man, his father sent him to Chile. It was 1979, and the South American country was years away from being recognized for the quality of its wine. But the elder Torres was thinking about the future. He had not forgotten the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, when he twice faced death and the family winery was seized by one side, then bombed by the other. Torres’ father reasoned that a landholding in the New World that was climatically suitable for growing wine would hedge against instability at home.

Spain never did slide back into civil war, but the investment in Chile turned out to be valuable nonetheless. The vast bulk of the family’s wine production remains in Spain, but its vineyards in South America are producing high-quality vintages that, along with the company’s properties at home and in California, make the Bodegas Torres wine company one of the major labels in the industry. Now 69 years old, Miguel Torres oversees sales of more than 42 million bottles a year in more than 140 countries.

Today, Torres is preparing once again for an uncertain future, not because of war but because of global warming, which is threatening his industry. This time, the investment isn’t across the ocean. It’s up the hill — a two-hour drive from the company’s headquarters in Vilafranca del Penedès, near Barcelona, into the foothills of the Pyrenees. There, on a high bluff brushed with pines and peppered with wild rosemary and thyme, swatches of ripening vineyards take advantage of the cool mountain air to produce grapes that would wilt under the Mediterranean heat of the lowlands. “We’re buying land even higher, in areas that are still too cold to plant,” says Torres.

Read the rest.