German scientists are simulating future climate change to save wine

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In a vineyard nestled by the Rhine river in western Germany, scientists are simulating the future to try to taste climate change.

The researchers at Hochschule Geisenheim University, an applied science school focused on crop production, have spent years on the simulated ecosystem. They’ve built six rings of ventilators, 12 meters in diameter, which blow carbon dioxide into rows of riesling and cabernet sauvignon grapes. By monitoring wind direction, the ventilators evenly distribute the gas throughout the test areas. (Three of the rings are experimental controls, so they blow normal air rather than CO2.)

They’ve already noticed substantial changes in their crops, though their results are still preliminary. So far, additional CO2 is making the grapes bigger and juicier. Their vines are soaking up way more water from the ground. And moth pests grown under higher CO2 levels, feeding on the altered crops, are reproducing faster.

Wine made from these altered grapes still seems to taste alright, but the researchers remain concerned about the future of their crops. 

“People often think that climate change would be, you know, having breakfast early in March on the terraces and laying under the sun, having gently waving palm trees in Germany or something,” says Dr. Claudia Kammann, a climate researcher at the university. “But it’s not what happens.”

Watch the video above to learn more about what’s troubling the researchers—and why they like to study wine grapes in particular. 

Quartz News is a weekly video series bringing you in-depth reporting from around the world. Each episode investigates one story, breaking down the often unseen economic and technological forces shaping our future.

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