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09.28.2006

The First Real Study on Global Warming and Vineyards

It's nearly already a cliché: start buying land in Sweden, because soon you'll be able to grow grapes there. There has been an awful lot of talk over the last 15 years about rising global temperatures and the effects on the wine world. For some of us, there was long ago enough circumstantial evidence (along with the very real, documented increase in global temperatures) to point to some pretty serious implications for the winegrowers of the world. There are lots of hardcore science types, however, that like to maintain that such evidence, even when collected by people like the Inuit (who you would think could be trusted when they point to a patch of soggy ground and tell you that it has been frozen for the last 30 generations) doesn't amount to scientific proof.

This study doesn't amount to proof (in fact it takes it for a given), but a recent article in Slate highlights what to my eyes looks like one of the more rigorous scientific studies on the effects of global warming on vineyards. The interesting thing about this study is not that it was conducted by a couple of economists who wanted to know what the effects of global warming would be on the vineyards of the world, and in particular, whether top vineyards would still be able to produce the quality of wines they are producing now if global temperatures go where now most people are saying they will.

These two economists used the highly documented (since the 1800s) vineyards of the Mosel valley to try and discover correlations between the amount of radiant heat the vineyard received and its quality of fruit. They in fact determined that the more heat the vineyards got in the Mosel, the better (and higher priced) wine they produced. Which means good things for the Mosel as global temperatures climb, but here's the rub: the Mosel is one of the more northerly growing regions of the world. So essentially the research shows that Germany will be sitting pretty in ten to twenty years, but elsewhere? Can you smell the raisins?

The upshot gives credence to the flip discussion about new vineyard land. There will doubtless be places producing wine in two decades that no one ever believed could possibly do so.

Read the whole article.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.