Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 5:25PM
Linda Johnson-Bell

Climatologists love the wine industry. They love the record keeping and the harvest reports. They love the plethora of references found in classic literature. They love the tomes of wine tasting notes. More particularly, they love grapes. Grapes are considered an “indicator crop”. It is a researcher’s dream: constant, reliable and meticulously detailed record keeping. Even my humble, personal research brought me to wine producers who have compiled harvest records that date back 150 years and more, in many cases. All of this provides a wealth of information.  “Because wines are constantly being tasted and rated for quality, wine grapes are a particularly good indicator of changes that are probably affecting other crops in the same areas.” (Gregory Jones, Southern Oregon University).  Those wine grapes grown in their European indigenous climates are the “control group” against which all others, from other climates, are measured. They are the yardstick of quality. Don’t forget: wine is grapes and grapes are fruit and fruit is farming. Wine production is glorified gardening – the same golden principles apply. The greatest wine maker I ever met (in my view) once told me that he considers himself a “farmer”, nothing more.


In his article, “Climate Change and Wine”, Gregory Jones refers to the grape as the agricultural “canary in the coal mine” in reference to the impact that climate change will have in wine production. He writes: “Climate is a pervasive factor in the success of all agricultural systems, influencing whether a crop is suitable to a given region, largely controlling crop production and quality, and ultimately driving economic sustainability. Climate’s influence on agribusiness is never more evident than with viticulture and wine production, where climate is arguably the most critical aspect in ripening fruit to optimum characteristics to produce a given wine style. He continues:

“History has shown that wine production occurs in relatively narrow geographical and climatic ranges. In addition, wine grapes have relatively large cultivar differences in climate suitability, further limiting some wine grapes to even smaller areas that are appropriate for their cultivation. These narrow niches for optimum quality and production put the cultivation of wine grapes at greater risk from both short-term climate variability and long-term climate changes than other more broad acre crops. In general, the overall wine style that a region produces is a result of the baseline climate, while climate variability determines vintage quality differences. Climatic changes, which influence both variability and average conditions, therefore have the potential to bring about changes in wine styles.”

Linda Johnson-Bell



Article originally appeared on The Wine Lady & The Wine and Climate Change Institute (http://thewinelady.com/).
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