Thursday, November 3, 2011

Will Global Warming Force Us to Change Varietals?

It's a big question that no one in the industry really wants to have to address, but one that's been tugging at the back of our minds for some time. Will we eventually be too warm to grow the grapes that we currently grow?

Yesterday's NPR article summed up the concerns nicely. If we are able to breed new grapes that are more drought-tolerant and heat-resistant, will we be able to sell them? If we have to make up new names for new grapes to adapt to the new climate, will they be commercially successful if consumers still want Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir instead?

It's a bit scary to think about, especially since the NPR article states that we might have to worry about it as soon as 2040 :"According to a recent study from Stanford University, about 2 degrees of warming could reduce California's premium wine-growing land by 30 to 50 percent. That could happen as soon as 2040. Water supply is also expected to be an issue...."

One thing that's slightly comforting to me is that Anderson Valley is starting out as the coldest commercial grape growing region: region one. That means that, if we continue to warm over the next 30 years, then maybe we'll just shift toward region 2 or even 3: the new Napa. Cab everywhere! Of course, it will break our hearts to not be able to grow Pinot Noir, and, if that trend continues and we have to keep replanting to adjust to a changing climate, then we're not much ahead of the game.

As for water, well, that's a dissertation in itself, not a blog post. Here locally, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association helps to fund a river gage that tracks the level of the river, including during frost and irrigation season. The majority of grape growers here aren't allowed to access the river and instead have ponds that catch winter rain, but it's still important to keep an eye on the state of our water.

Any way you cut it, climate change is something that could have a big effect on what we grow, and what's available to consumers to drink. I imagine if it really shifts and we all have to replant, that many farmers will reconsider their dedication to farming anything at all, especially finicky things like wine grapes.

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