Friday, January 16, 2015
Ms. Nicholas writes to educate us all about climate change and its effect on wine-growing regions around the globe and seems to be on a crusade to save the wine styles that we know and enjoy today for the benefit of the palates of future generations. I dunno, personally, I am glad that the Bordeaux wines that I can enjoy today do not resemble any of the wines being produced in that particular wine region during the (approximate) 300 year period when Bordeaux was owned by England: they were most likely horrid by today's standards.
Wine was not being produced commercially in the Napa Valley 200 years ago (as it was in most European countries), and even if it had been would it have tasted like, oh, let's say the Saddelback, 2011 Merlot (Oakville AVA) that I am going to drink with dinner tonight? I doubt it. There are a lot of variables that have contributed to the evolution of wine production through the centuries, not just heat. Obviously, temperature brings out different characteristics in grapes (ergo, wine), but focusing only on the influence of heat ignores the importance of things like soil composition and topography, etc.
There is no real research documented in this article other than a graphic which cites the work of Lee Hannah (of Conservation International) and Patrick Roehrdanz (of U.C. Santa Barbara), which suggests that climate change will force the wine industry to "migrate" to survive. A sidebar claims, "California growers in Napa and Sonoma are experimenting with ways to compensate for climate change, preferable to moving to new locations." How preposterous (and alarmist) is that statement? I personally know a few Napa growers and not one of them has mentioned moving their operations elsewhere. I don't know about Messrs. Hannah and Roehrdanz, but Ms. Nicholas hails from Sonoma, so I am assuming that she has noticed, first hand, the very current lack of plantable acreage in the Napa Valley and is aware that, basically, there is a moratorium on hillside planting. Oh, and there is a tiny paragraph that mentions some sunlight analyses that Ms. Nicholas conducted with her "colleagues at Stanford and U.C. Davis," which showed "that for every 1 percent increase in light, there was a more than 2 percent decrease in desirable tannins and anthocyanins." Not one "desirable tannin" (and its subsequent disappearance) was named in the article. Well, there goes the neighbourhood...and the palates of the wine drinkers of 2080! (Wonder where Ms. Nicholas bought her crystal ball, because I want one.)
There is one thing in the article, right near the end, perhaps as a meagre attempt at objectivity, that I agree with, but it is nothing Ms. Nicholas proposed. Jason Kesner, of Kesner Wines (producers of mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), believes "that the most outstanding vineyards in the region may still be generations away." How dare he be so optimistic and so audaciously uninformed! But I happen to agree with him. With new techniques, equipment, plant materials, philosophies and, yes, even conservation, I think Napa wine-growing has a rosy future. The Antinori's, the Italian wine dynasty, who began making wine in the really toasty middle ages, have even invested in Napa's future. I am not filled with doom and gloom.
Nobody knows whether or not global warming is fact or fiction, man-made or a natural and cyclical phenomenon and to pretend (with no facts to back up that pretense, especially in fact-free articles like the one in Scientific American), is just irresponsible and journalistic-sensationalism at its worst.
My own empirical data suggests, nay screams, that after about a decade of trying to get Cabernet sauvignon, clone 4, ripened in chilly-Coombsville I am not likely to achieve a desirable level of ripeness in 2015 either. Not this year, not 100 years from now. Sigh. I should have planted clone 169, and that's a fact.