With wine, we can taste climate change

Corie Brown in the Los Angeles Times about the changing wine map due to climate change.

A growing number of climatologists are warning that by the turn of the next century, such a radically altered wine map could be the new reality. They say man-made greenhouse gases warming the planet are expected to shift viticultural regions toward the poles, cooler coastal zones and higher elevations.

“I don’t think you can make a vineyard decision today based on historical information,” says David Graves, one of the owners of Napa Valley’s Saintsbury wines. “You have to factor in climate change.”

No question, says London-based wine critic Jancis Robinson, global warming is changing wines. “Dry German wines now are seriously delicious. English wines and Canadian wines have benefited.” On the other hand, she says, wines from warmer regions including Spain and Australia are suffering the rise in temperature.

The acute environmental sensitivity of wine grapes separates vineyards from other agricultural systems, says Dan Cayan, a climate researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “If you believe the viticulturists and their classifications of where premium wine can, and cannot, be produced, and you impose the global warming projections,” he says, “you find some areas would possibly be thrust into a climate no longer suited to the grapes now grown there.”

Says Koch: “Grabbed in an aggressive manner, global warming is a challenge that can be solved.” Whether they like it or not, he adds, California vintners “recognize that we (the Wine Institute) are on the cutting edge of this global environmental issue.

Scanning the environment and innovating for future changes is the crux of business strategy. The Wine Makers have their work cut out for them.

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