As wine regions across the globe continue to struggle with drought and wildfires due to climate change, winemakers are looking to vineyards thriving in the barren Negev desert for guidance. Scientists have recently suggested that up to 85% of land in wine-growing regions could no longer be viable due to the effects of climate change.
Mercury levels in wine regions like California’s Napa and Sonoma are already soaring, so winemakers are turning to those succeeding in hostile environments like Israel’s Negev Desert. Winemakers there are overcoming challenging terroir and producing world-class wines while doing so.
Speaking to NBC, Eran Raz, who runs Nana Estate Winery, which sits in The Negev, said, “A lot of people told me there’s no way to grow grapes here. I thought to myself OK, I’m going to prove to myself that I can do it.” Raz’s winery sits between sand dunes around 15 miles from the Egyptian border to the west and Jordan to the east. The Israeli winemaker has proved that vines can survive in even the toughest of conditions
As Raz explained, growers in the Negev have to deal with rocky land that lacks nutrients and other necessities. Therefore, they must enrich the soil one ingredient at a time, which allows scientists the unique opportunity to observe the impact of individual variables. This puts The Negev in an intriguing positions, where it can create a new model for viticulture within a changing climate.
“Nowhere in the world can you use the field as a true laboratory like we use it in the Negev Desert,” said biochemist Aaron Fait, also based in The Negev. He envisions creating a manual for each grape variety, with the exact inputs that every type of grape needs to create perfect wine. Fait’s lab analyses 30 varieties of grapes, some of which show “very promising resistance” to drought.
Nana Estate Winery already produces world-class Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, making them living proof that wine can thrive in hotter climates, and, possibly, in a hotter world.