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Wine in the Time of Global Warming

October 16, 2007 – Well Fed Network

I like wine. It is my preferred alcoholic beverage. So an article on how the wine industry will be changed by global warming is very interesting.

The author starts out by assuming that global warming caused by humans is a foregone conclusion. While some of my readers here may disagree with that, there is no doubt that there is some amount of warming going on regardless of the cause, so let’s get past that opening.

As with most things, the general increase in temperatures hurts some aspects of the wine industry and helps others. Areas that are colder and struggle to create high quality fruit may thrive with a slight increase in temperature. Other areas that are at a perfect temperature today may find the increase intolerable and thus see their production and quality diminish.

While these temperature changes seem small, their affect on the viticultural industry will be significant. Grapes are particularly sensitive to heat and need to stay within a narrow temperature band to produce quality fruit. Thus, as explained by Bernard Seguin, “‘One degree increase in temperature is very important’”


According to Jones’ study, all regions are experiencing growing season warming (2005b). For some regions, the initial changes have been helpful. Cooler climates, such as the Mosel and Rhine regions, have benefited from the increased temperature, with vintages improving with warmer weather….


Conversely, warmer climates have suffered from the additional heat, which has been especially true for areas currently at the high end of the spectrum for growing conditions such as La Mancha; Central Valley, CA; and southern France (Buckley 2006). Many wines from these warmer areas have shown an imbalance in alcohol and acidity….


Consequently, White et.al. warn that the grape growing industries in Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara may not exist in the future, predicting that as much as 81% of California acreage will be rendered unsuitable for premium grape growing as climate change continues.


…Further, there is a real danger of vine infestation, particularly from Glassy Winged Sharpshooters, which spread Pierce’s Disease, and the pest hyalestes obsoletus, which is responsible for Bois Noir (Furer 2006). These vine diseases already pose a threat, but with milder winters, insects are living longer and migrating farther distances, thus, increasing both the perimeter of affected areas and the population of insects available to perpetuate disease (Buckley 2006).

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