According to a recent study (Hannah et al., 2013), it is estimated that the increase in global temperature derived from climate change conditions will cause the appropriate surface area for vine cultivation to decrease between 25 and 75% for the year 2050.
Among the most affected areas are important traditional Mediterranean wine-growing areas (including Spanish, French and Italian vineyards) (Figure 1), and new wine-growing areas around the world, such as the west coast of the United States, and wine-growing areas of Argentina. and Chile.
According to the same study, this fact will lead to the appearance of new viticultural areas at higher altitudes , in which, under the conditions of climate change, the right conditions will be produced for the vine to be cultivated.
Thus, high altitude viticulture (that is, the cultivation of the vine at higher altitudes than those traditionally used, Figure 2) emerges as an opportunity for the viticulturist to be able to deal with the negative effects derived from climate change (Malheiro et al., 2010), offering the consumer a new range of wines with unique characteristics.
In general, high altitude areas are characterized by:
1- Have a lower average temperature.
2- Offer greater UV radiation and light intensity
3- Present lower percentages of certain atmospheric components (eg: oxygen and carbon dioxide, CO2).
New viticultural areas will appear at higher altitudes, in which the right conditions for growing vines will be produced.
Thus, plants grown in these high altitude conditions are characterized by having a shorter biological cycle , although they may present higher photosynthetic rates derived from the higher UV radiation present in these areas (Rieger, 2007).
One of the main benefits of high altitude viticulture is the greater thermal amplitude of these new growing areas. In other words, these areas present a greater difference between the maximum daytime temperature and the minimum nighttime temperature, mainly due to the lower nighttime temperature that characterizes this environment.
It is well known that the greater this thermal amplitude, the more convenient the area is for obtaining quality grapes for winemaking, since it causes a slow ripening of the grape while maintaining an adequate level of acidity , which improves the final composition of the fruit ( Ramos et al., 2008).
On the other hand, this new high-altitude viticulture presents certain challenges that the viticulturist will have to face through specific measures, such as (Rieger, 2007):
1- Greater risk of night frosts .
2- Appearance of adverse climatic events that can damage the crop (heavy rains, hail).
3- Presence of steep slopes , which can generate significant variations between the performance of the upper and lower areas of the vineyard.
However, the grapes obtained in high altitude vineyards are generally characterized by (Berli et al., 2012):
1- Have a more favorable phenolic profile .
2- Have a correct sugar content .
3- Adequate content of aromatic compounds and polyphenols.
High altitude wines are fresh wines, with a lower alcohol content, with a high acidity index, a good alcohol-acidity balance and a great aromatic quality.
This uniqueness is awakening the interest of consumers and wineries, who are looking for higher and cooler places to grow their vines.
Viticulture in style – Diario de Viña 2016