As for the future, Dr. Del Genio stated that new climate models predict we will experience increases of anywhere from 400-500 GDD over historical averages, by end of the next decade. I mentioned to him that I had run the numbers and saw this beginning to happen. He was not surprised; again, Dr. Del Genio was on the money. When I asked him what stocks he would recommend though, he said he was only a physicist.
To ignore the influence of climate change with regard to wine growing would be a mistake. When or how we will deal with these issues in our lifetime is another matter, but I believe we are beginning to. In last 5 years we’ve experienced the warmest on record, (2002) the warm and perpetually overcast (2003) and the extreme hot and dry followed by rains of biblical proportions (2005.) Clearly, many inCaliforniaare addressing the issue today, seen by the numerous land purchases by wineries and viticultural speculators in the cooler areas of the Northwest.
In the future, a warmer climate may mean many things. On the positive side it may extend the length of growing season and allow us the ability to plant later-ripening varieties. It may even open up entirely new regions for viticulture in areas where vines have not been successful before.
Conversely, warmer climate might mean the dilution and disappearance of terroir in certain regions as well as some traditional wine styles we are familiar with – particularly those in the cooler wine producing regions ofEurope. Dr. Robert Pincus, a climatologist at the NOAA inColoradowho has written extensively about the wine industry, states in the journal Gastronomica, that “in an increasingly warm world, the particular associations between wine and place will be difficult or impossible to maintain.” His studies led him to conclude that “even where the impact of climate change is less dramatic, decades, even centuries of viticultural experience will be rendered irrelevant.” Aside from higher temperatures, climate models predict changes in the levels and rates of precipitation and most importantly forLong Island, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, which could make life a little more precarious for everyone – winegrowers included.
The term we need to be using is not global warming – but climate change. As the name states, climate change is just that – it’s not only about warming, its about a change in a complex system that we still do not fully understand that could include a broad set of possibilities. One thing is certain – winegrowers have always learned to adapt and will certainly do so in the future – experimenting with novel varieties, defining new terroir and developing unique wine styles. Perhaps we don’t know yet exactly what all those changes will turn out to be – but something tells me we’ll be much better off if we could listen more closely to people like Dr. Tony Del Genio.
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