global venting

Monday, October 12, 2009

The headline in the Seattle Times seemed innocent enough to me. It read: “Puget Sound area emerging as wine region, thanks to warmer climate.” The sub-head continued: “A small explosion of new Western Washington wine-grape growers appears to be capitalizing on climate shifts that are redrawing the global wine-growing map.”

The story was written by Craig Welch, identified as an “environment reporter.” I don’t know Craig, and had no input to the story. But it talked about the development of vineyards in western Washington, opining that “A small explosion of new Western Washington wine-grape growers appears to be capitalizing on climate shifts that are redrawing the global wine-growing map.”

Anyone who has had the opportunity to hear Dr. Greg Jones speak on the subject (he is recognized around the world as a leading authority on the impact of recent climate trends on wine grapes) would not, I suspect, be surprised at anything in this article. Jones has a massive database supporting the fairly simple scientific assertion that wine regions all over the world are seeing trends that portend significant changes in what can be grown where.

And yet, this article, like any that even brush against the phrase “climate change” – as if it were some apocalyptic declaration – brings out a barrage of reader posts damning Al Gore, the President, the Governor, the Democrats, the scientists... just about anyone who seems to agree that grape-growing conditions are changing.

The most intelligent reader post came from a western Washington grower who wrote: “Wine grapes have been grown in the ‘rain shadow’ area of Sequim for many years, and in other areas around Puget Sound, too. I'm a grape grower myself, and I've been making wine for over 30 years. So far I'd say any speculation about the effects of global warming on the industry here is premature. What western Washington winemakers have learned to do is to grow cool-climate grapes, and some of them very successfully, but the Puget Sound region is hardly similar to Burgundy (as Oregon's Willamette Valley is), or even the cooler Loire Valley of France. I think it will take many more years of climate change before we will see any big changes in the wine industry on the ‘wet’ side of the state, where many wineries still get their grapes from eastern Washington.”

So my question is this: apart from Dr. Jones, is anyone at an industry level acquiring the scientific evidence to do some incontrovertible predicting about where we are headed? I personally do not care if it’s the next Ice Age or turning Alaska into Hawaii – but I’d like to be able to quote proper authority on the subject, and it would seem important for organizations such as the Wine Institute in California, the Oregon Wine Board, the Washington Wine Institute, etc. etc. to be doing the R&D in order to let their members – especially growers – know what’s coming.

So what is coming? I’d love to hear from scientists and growers especially, with scientific and empirical evidence of trends over time. I have no personal ax to grind here, though Dr. Jones has presented, in my view, a compelling case for the warming theorists. But are these still just theories, or does the industry as a whole agree that change is happening, that in general it’s getting warmer everywhere, and that it will have a significant impact worldwide on what can be grown where? If so, what should growers and winemakers be doing in order to adapt?

1 comment:

Tiny said...


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