Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wine and Global Warming

I just read an important and unexpected article: "Meltdown in your wineglass? A conference in Barcelona looks at the effects of global climate change on the world of wine" by Corie Brown in the Los Angeles Times.

I had heard that new, more northern wine-growing regions might become more capable of producing good wine in larger quantities. Who knows if California or New Zealand (where I took the photos, respectively) will still be producing wine of the same quality and type.

This article goes much further than earlier things I've read. Wine flavors, natural acidity, depth of color, alcohol content, and the types of grapes practical for a given region would all alter as the climate changes. Warmer weather, less rain, and other factors would change many things. And "as rising levels of carbon dioxide encourage out-of-control vegetative growth, the green, herbaceous flavors consumers deplore may well increase."

"Several speakers suggested that rising alcohol levels will have to be controlled most likely by using methods such as reverse osmosis," the article explained. "To capture natural acids and aromas, harvests will be staggered, with some grapes harvested under-ripe to produce lots that can be blended with fuller-flavored lots from riper grapes. Together, the lots may produce a balanced wine."

The article concludes: "throughout the world's wine-growing regions, average temperatures, particularly at night, are rising, and rainfall patterns are increasingly unpredictable. As a result, the grapevine's growth cycle has escalated so that 'bud break,' the start of the annual cycle, occurs as much as a month earlier than it did 50 years ago.

"'It's a disturbance in the balance we call terroir,' Schultz [a climatologist with Germany's Geisenheim Research Institute], told the group. 'The wine industry has tremendous adaptive capacity. But it must agree there is an issue and develop clear strategies for dealing with it.'"

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