Aug 22, 2017

In Italy’s Drought-Hit Vineyards, the Harvest of a Changing Climate

12060 Barolo CN
Italy
by
Jason Horowitz
,
The New York Times
Donneschi Zvonko, 49, harvesting pinot nero grapes in Neive. Due to the high temperatures this year, the winemaker Castello di Neive has started harvesting the grapes three weeks earlier than usual. Photo: Alessandro Penso for The New York Times
Donneschi Zvonko, 49, harvesting pinot nero grapes in Neive. Due to the high temperatures this year, the winemaker Castello di Neive has started harvesting the grapes three weeks earlier than usual. Photo: Alessandro Penso for The New York Times

On a road winding through the heart of Barolo country, Michele Reverdito pulled his car over and stepped onto a sloping and sickly vineyard.

“Look at the wilting leaves and how small and shriveled the grapes are,” he said, holding a sad bunch of nebbiolo grapes in his hand on yet another hot August day.

The 48-year-old winemaker explained that unlike his own nearby vines, which were old, with deep roots, these vines were unable to tap the earth’s underground reserves of water, leaving grapes vulnerable to this year’s drought and brutal summer sun.

“Nebbiolo means ‘the wine of the fog’ because you picked the grapes in November,” he said. “Now we pick in September! The world is changing.”

In vino veritas. The warming temperatures, shortening of the seasons and unseasonal storms brought on by global climate change are hastening the harvest of perhaps the most venerable crop of Western civilization.