Global Warming Threatens Napa Wines

Worried about global warming? Now, wine enthusiasts can start to REALLY worry. It’s being widely reported that greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere could decimate California’s high end wine industry. The Los Angeles Times reports in Global Warming May Shrink Vineyards,

A predicted rise in the number of days hotter than 95 degrees during the growing season could sharply reduce the amount of areas suitable for vintage wine-grape production, an international team of scientists concluded in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Marginal vineyards nationwide might be eliminated and those capable of producing the most expensive premium wines may be reduced by half, the researchers reported. Although wine is produced in 48 states, California’s $16.5-billion industry, with more than 500,000 acres of vineyards, accounts for almost 90% of the nation’s wine grapes.

The report isn’t without its detractors. Some find it alarmist, and question the definition of a 95 degree day as hot enough to negatively affect grape growing. In fact, the growing season temperatures for the main West Coast wine regions have risen by about 1.5 degrees since 1948 — this has actually improved yields and wine quality.

Of course, climate shifts that negatively affect one area may positively affect other areas. Even as one area gets too hot for optimal growing conditions, other areas warm up enough to make growing practical.

As growing seasons become hotter, winemaking areas would shift north and to higher elevations, the researchers said. Grape-growing areas in California would shrink to a narrow coastal band. In the Southwest and the Midwest, wine production would be almost completely eliminated.

Premium wine-grape areas would shift into New England and the Pacific Northwest.

Even if you find the global warming predictions to be highly credible, there’s no need to make a panic run to your local wine shop to stock up on premium California wines – the projected changes are gradual, with little impact until closer to the end of the century.

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