Characterising and adapting to climate risks in the UK wine sector

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Grantham Research Inst on Climate Change


The cultivation of wine grapes under cool-climate conditions in England and Wales is rapidly expanding and resulting sparkling wines in particular are winning international awards and acclaim. Warming growing season trends associated with global warming are supporting growth in vineyard numbers and the planting of more consumer popular grape varieties, while also attracting significant international investment interest. However, while the 2018 growing season has produced a record harvest, in very grape-friendly growing conditions, year to year fluctuations in climate still regularly threaten the sustainability of the sector. Yields are still on average less than one third of those found in the Champagne region of France, for example, and in certain years such as 2012, some English vineyards harvested no grapes at all.
The proposed collaboration is between the London School of Economics and the University of East Anglia. Researchers at each institute have highly relevant experience, for example, the team includes a wine sector specialist, a climate scientist and a social scientist with experience of adaptation in businesses.
The first aim of this research is to capitalise on the launch of new future climate change projections for the UK to assess how critical growing season characteristics for wine grapes may change over the coming decades. We propose to develop our research which has focused upon the development of the wine sector up to now, to show how future climate trends out to 2050 may influence the sector, and thereby offer guidance to enhance the sector's resilience to climate change.
Second, working directly with the national organisation for grape growers and winemakers (Wines of Great Britain), we will examine how businesses make decisions about adapting to future climate change, thereby helping to ensure that this fledgling industry has a bright future.
As yet, there is limited information about climate change that wine producers or investors can use for decision making.
The research has the following objectives:
1) To produce a very detailed dataset of air frost risk (still a critical hazard for grape growth) to more accurately quantify local frost risk and hence site suitability for growing grapes (viticulture) in the current climate.
2) To develop indicators of climatic risk under future climate change for the 2030s and 2050s based on newly available climate model projections for the UK.
3) To assess decision-making processes with respect to adaptation in the wine sector and examine the role of perceptions of climate change risk and opportunities in decision-making.
The wine sector can be used as an example of an 'early adoptor' of climate adaptation in the UK through which there is an opportunity to study the process by which businesses are making decisions about risk management. Since the overall direction of change in climate has been positive for UK wine production this proposal focuses, unusually, on both the opportunities and risks of climate change.
Our research will use a multi-methods approach. Climate science for the development of new climate projections and climatic risk factors. And social science or qualitative methods (interviews and survey) to understand the resilience and behavioural dimensions of adaptation.
The research is designed to generate practical support for adaptation to climate change in the UK (climate resilience) particularly for, but not restricted to, the wine sector. Informed by our longstanding relationship with stakeholders in the wine sector we will advise national climate change assessments and policy processes through consultation. We will work alongside Wines of Great Britain to ensure a co-designed and shared approach. We will work with a Communications and Policy team to identify audiences and the main messages from our results and prepare a Policy Brief for decision-makers and a short video (for YouTube) that captures our key recommendations.

Planned Impact

Impact is integral to our aims and activities, from initial design, informed by our longstanding relationship with stakeholders in the wine sector, ongoing through the research process and into the planning of dissemination activities and outputs. Much of our research experience has been informed by conversations with target audiences and we will seek their inputs throughout the research and dissemination processes.
We believe our strategic choice of the rapidly growing Great Britain wine sector will ensure strong policy interest and uptake of results facilitated through effective communication tools and relevant channels.
Sector-specific impact - Dr Nesbitt and Professor Dorling have strong connections with individuals, organisations and businesses in the UK wine production sector. We have agreed collaboration with Wines of Great Britain, the national body for all grape growers and wine producers in Great Britain.
Specific activities include promoting new viticulture related climate projections and bioclimatic indices to vineyard managers through a programme of presentations delivered through Regional Grower Associations. We will prepare briefing material on emerging climate risks and opportunities to use with stakeholder surveys and so raise awareness and understanding across the sector.
National processes - We will inform processes such as the Third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3). PI Conway is part of the successful team that won the bid to prepare the CCRA3 Evidence Report Technical Chapters. As a contributing author he will ensure that results from this project feed into relevant chapters. Where opportunities arise we will target consultations and meetings that comprise part of other national processes such as the National Adaptation Programme.
We will work with a Communications and Policy team to define audiences and messaging and prepare a Policy Brief to capture key insights from the project. Publication will be timed to achieve maximum impact by tying-in with an article publication, launch of the video (see below) or a wine sector event.
Wider impact, public and media - Due to very positive feedback from stakeholders in a previous project we will produce a short video that will capture key insights from the research that are relevant for stakeholders in the wine sector and more broadly for businesses.
Our recent work in the climate-viticulture space is already attracting significant industry attention, typified by the article authored by Andrew Jefford on the Decanter website (December 3rd, 2018;
"A flourishing English sparkling wine scene is one of the few pieces of climate-change good news, and the magnificent 2018 English wine harvest has brought it into close focus. The timing, therefore, could hardly have been better for the publication of an academic paper last month outlining what we might call the terroir potential of England and Wales. Lead author is Dr Alistair Nesbitt from the English Vine and Wine Consultancy, working with Professor Stephen Dorling and Professor Andrew Lovett of the University of East Anglia."


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