Climate Change Helps German Winemakers, Harms Rhine
Germany experienced its hottest and driest spring and summer growing season on record in 2018. According to the New York Times, farmers, riverboat captains, and foresters experienced disaster as a result. However, German winemakers' harvests thrived in the hot climate.
One of Germany’s most prominent wine tasters, Christoph Dirksen, affirmed that this year’s wine crop tastes significantly better than last year’s. Wine sales in 2019 are expected to increase dramatically. In reference to this year's wine production, Roman Niewodniczanski, owner of Van Volxem Winery in Wiltingen, exclaimed, "It's grandiose!" According to Niewodniczański, not only will the sweetness of the grapes harvested significantly improve, but total wine output is expected to rise by 20 percent or more this year.
Dirk Würtz, a German vintner and wine journalist, added that “we are the big winners from climate change.” Summers in Germany have slowly but surely gotten warmer and warmer, accelerating the ripening of grapes.
Similarly, last year’s record-hot summer in England led to an unusually bountiful harvest of grapes, according to the New York Times. Due to rising temperatures, England has only recently been able to produce high-quality wines. Vinters affirm that, if temperatures continue to increase at the current rate, grapes could potentially be grown as far north as Scotland in the coming decades. By 2025, grapes for wine could be grown in almost all of Germany.
On the other hand, warming climates have adversely affected the Rhine River. Farmer’s losses are estimated to be several billion dollars, and thousands of fish in the Swiss section of the river have died due to the heat and low oxygen levels. The Rhine is a crucial lifeline in Germany, as over eighty percent of the country’s cargo is shipped on it.
Climate change has also profoundly impacted Germany outside of the country’s main river. Rising temperatures have increased the risk of wildfires in the Alps, increased precipitation in winter, and decreased precipitation in summer. A 30 percent decrease in precipitation is expected across Germany by 2080.