Talk Colorado Wine & Colorado's Wine Country: Climate Change, Part 2: A Liberal Perspective

Friday, October 3, 2008

Climate Change, Part 2: A Liberal Perspective

Isabel Cowles at the liberal blog, Huffington Post, has written an interesting perspective on how global warming will drastically alter vineyards around the world. While she agrees with the CNBC article by Sam Harsop, which we published earlier in the week, Cowles takes an even more detailed, granular view of the future. Under the headline, "Sustainable Lessons from the Vineyard," Cowles writes:

"Another risk of global warming: befuddlement before the wine list. It's taken you years to sort through the distinctions between Argentine, Italian and Californian wines. You feel like you might finally be ready to hold court against the combative advice of the French sommelier. You thought you knew what vintages to trust, what terroirs would be peppery or sweet, what grape types would produce deep, rich reds, and which would make light citrus-flavored whites. But with global temperatures steadily climbing, everything you thought you knew about viticulture might change.

"Within the last fifty years subtle temperature increases have altered the harvests at vineyards across traditional wine producing regions. examines the findings of Dr. Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University and his colleagues who analyzed 50 years of climate data from 27 wine regions. The group compared their findings with Sotheby's 100-point vintage ratings, 'looking for any trends in wine quality and growing season temperatures.' The group also projected temperature changes over the next 50 years, using an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model.

"Dr. Jones noted that regions from Southern coast of Europe like French Languedoc and Italian Chianti to vineyards in South Africa and central California will experience a temperature change of about 2 degrees centigrade -- which will seriously alter the grape-ripening time frame.

"Historically, vineyards were planted in regions where grapes were likely to ripen: sun-drenched, warm hills and fields. But with consistently increasing temperatures, grapes mature much more quickly than they used to, making it difficult for wine farmers to achieve the proper acidity balance needed to create a wine more complex than sugary Welch's grape juice.

"Despite the mounting dismay among winemakers on more temperate strips of land, successful vineyards have emerged in traditionally cooler areas like England and Northern California. The changing temperatures have altered what regions can produce certain types of wine.

According to The Washington Post, winemakers have begun to ponder what emergent regions will produce favored wines when their traditional vineyards no longer can: '[Will] the next Napa Valley be Sonoma's Russian River Valley, now known for chardonnay and pinot noir, or perhaps the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia? Or some sunny mountainside in Colorado with no history of viticulture? Will Burgundy become the new Bordeaux and Germany's Mosel the new Burgundy?'"

You can read the rest of the article here.

Shifting temperatures and climate patterns may mean a lot of grape stock gets ripped up and replanted, and perhaps that the "sunny mountainside in Colorado" mentioned by the Post is the Grand Mesa. From ski resorts to wineries to evergreen forests , rising temperatures are changing a lot of what Coloradans hold dear.

1 comment:

ClaireWalter said...

For more on the subject of the impact of global warming/climate change on our foods and wines, read "The Olive Tree Doesn't Lie" by Mort Rosenbloom ( He is/was a NYTimes foreign correspondent and an award-winning author of several books, including the wonderfuly written "Olives" about olive trees, harvesting practices and olive oil production around the Mediterranean and in California.

Claire @

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