The current climate changes are also changing the timing of grape harvest. In 2020 in France grape harvest started two weeks earlier than in 2019 in some vineyards in the South-East, three weeks earlier in Bordeaux if compared to traditional harvest times, and up to one month earlier in the Loire region.
The temperature increase in Summer months causes a higher concentration of sugar and a lower acidity of grapes. The consequence is that wines contain more alcohol. The calculation of the alcohol percentage also allows to define the exact maturity stage of the grape. An anticipated maturation of grapes prevents flavours to fully develop, thus wines are of a lower quality and it is harder to meet the requirements for a specific controlled designation of origin (DOC). In order to mitigate these consequences, the French company Ombrea (https://www.ombrea.fr) has devised a tool that protects and regulates the microclimate perceived by the vine, in order to allow an optimal development and maturation of grapes. This system is constituted by solar panels that move in order to balance the shade on the soil. The movement allows the regulation of climate parameters such as humidity, temperature and radiation according to the indications received by a software that elaborates the meteorological data detected by ten sensors that define the environmental characteristics of the crops, thus aiming to satisfy with precision the needs of each vineyard. The data collected allow a detailed analysis of climate conditions, that are then integrated according to a predictable elaboration of climate risks. The positioning of the panels can also be regulated by a mechanical system. This system of automatic regulation of the panels according to an algorithm is a technology that has required years of research and development. Various patents have been registered for this technology.
According to the data registered by Ombrea’s agronomists in cooperation with the French institute for vineyards and wine (IFV), in vineyards where this system is exploited grapes are 4% heavier, they contain 5% less sugar and 1% less alcohol.
Similar systems of protection are being developed for more vulnerable agricultural crops such as strawberries and salads in order to protect them from hail, frost, warm and dry summer.
Image from https://www.ombrea.fr