Friday, January 16, 2015

What ifs.

The photograph on this Vinsanity post is meant to illustrate how I imagine our great-great-grandchildren will enjoy their Napa Valley wines.  I envision a future where Riedel may have been forced out of the glassware business because all wine will be being quaffed from coffee mugs, (in this case, a rather fetching Robert Mondavi mug - adorned with Bob's mug).  I came to this rather alarming conclusion after reading a stunningly unscientific article in the January issue of Scientific American, 'Will We Still Enjoy Pinot Noir?'  The article is written by Chicken Licken, sorry, I mean, Kimberly A. Nicholas who is an associate professor of sustainability science at Lund University in Sweden.  Ja, that Sweden.
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.


Thomas said...

Not too bad, VG.

Generally, I agree with you. If a "scientist" makes a claim, it's a good idea to back it up with some facts, even if they are only the result of studies, etc. One thing I always do when I read definitive opinions: consider the source. If the source is an activist, it;s almost certain only one side of the story is being told.

Having said that, I kind of disagree with this: "Nobody knows whether or not global warming is fact or fiction..."

Maybe it can't be called global warming, but after 31 years here, I can tell you without a doubt that the Finger Lakes climate has changed form the one I met when I got here. I know this by observing animals, insects, and plants, not to mention the weather.

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso: Yes, consider the source, good point. Like the source of the claptrap email I just recieved about 10 mins ago. I don't think The Climate Reality Project people realise that I'm not a citizen and for that reason I can't do what they are urging me to, (but then again, even that little factoid doesn't seem to matter to some people).
I know we have 'discussed' this issue in the past (along with your Japanese beetle problem), but I stand firm on my position that I don't know if, OK, let us call it climate change, is indeed fact or fiction. I am not a scientist and neither are you. By your criteria, I can say that I have lived in the Bay Area for more than 25 years and I haven't seen any evidence of 'climate change' here. The Bay Area's micro-climates are as confoundingly un-English to me as they were on the day I landed in SFO. And as an avid, ever curious, insect and weed fan (as you may have gleaned from reading my blog now for several years), I honestly cannot say I have seen a change in the Bay Area's flora and fauna (and I've lived in both the East Bay and Napa - very different areas).
One thing I am absolutely certain of though is that in 100 years time neither of us will be here, to say to the other - "I told you so!"

Thomas said...


One other thing is certain: many times throughout history, the climate has changed on earth. In fact, many eons ago, after the US northeast emerged from an ocean, Alaska was a warm desert and the northeast went into an ice. There's no debate about that. Our present climatic condition is about 12,000 years old.

In the 1960s, I spent one year in Thule Greenland--thank you US Air Force. That was the last place to the north on the North American continent where human civilization lived. I remember distinctly the massive ice cap that overlooked the Air Force base, and I mean massive. That ice cap is all gone today.

It is incomprehensible to think that the ever-increasing human population on a finite planet is or can be a benevolent force (the world doesn't expand like rubber to accommodate population growth), but even if humans are not the issue in climate change. The issue is that on earth climate has always changed and there's no reason t=o believe it won;t continue on that path. How can our species survive the change is what we need to think about.

Thomas said...

make that "went into an ice age."

New Hampshire Wineman said...

adjective: obsequious
obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.

VG: I think I've been a fan for four years now, and that hasn't changed with your insightful satirical treatment of a mostly political issue rather than a scientific one: one average (oops-average?) volcano changes the atmosphere more than ten years of all human 'effort'.
I've been told that suicide has been employed by some wishing to 'preserve' the planet, which makes sacrificial sense if a person really believes that they are harming their 'mother'.
I see crazy destructive people and their elected or otherwise come-to-power leaders as a greater threat than the numbers of people, and I count among them Al Gore flying all over the place and to his many energy-wasting homes around the world (All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal).
Since "The Rule of Law" has become a manipulative tool rather than "Truth" and blind justice, it's difficult to get to the bottom of the BP gulf spill and other environmental mega-disasters. I see the threat of a martyr-nation like Iran as a greater concern for the environment than my 32 MPG Honda (War is the greatest environmental threat).
In summation: Science demonstrates that the sun (our very own star) will likely make human life on planet earth impossible in as few as 20,000 years, but at some point earth is done-for!
While we wait: Cheers!

Thomas said...

Dennis and VG:

Jut to be clear: I don't believe humans can do much about the natural order of changing climate--but if the species wants to remain viable, it will need to figure out how.

I do chuckle at the climate change advocates who use up fossil energy to get their message across, and that goes for vineyard operations, not to mention wine deliveries across the nation and the globe.

At the same time, I laugh out loud when a politician claims that the US can win this by being energy-independent. First of all, with fossil fuel being a global market, there is no such thing as energy independence--I think the dropping global oil price causing a volatile US stock market gives a clear picture of that lie. But I digress.

As to climate change itself: empirical evidence is not an illusion.

Thud said...

I wish the feck it would warm up here,its fun when you go on one.

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso: Yes, the planet wobbles on its axis and shifts dramatically (precession) every 26,000 or so years causing glacial periods. We are apparently in an interglacial period now (there have been 50 glaciations in the past 2.6 million years), having been saved from going into a mini ice-age in the 1970s by everyone's favourite enemy, CO2. Why isn't methane the number one public enemy? Methane traps thirty times more heat than CO2, but I don't see NGOs, like the Bay Area Air Management District, calling for the extermination of all cows and the eradication of all marshlands etc. No, they'd rather stop citizens of the Bay Area from having a log fire on Christmas Day. One less log fire, versus billions of farting cows, is not going to save the planet.
And yes, the planet is grossly over populated, but where are the folks/politicians who are asking people to have less babies? I suppose they're too busy taxing the rest of us so that they can give the money to those reproductive people in order for them to be able to afford all those extra kiddies (Thus ensuring the pols are reelected).
As for Thule, I just read that the sea ice only thins sufficiently once a year to get one US supply ship to the airbase. Exactly how much ice did Thule have around it during the Medieval Warm Period? No one living today knows: same as they don't know for sure what the future holds. 145 million years ago the Napa Valley was part of San Francisco Bay - a person would have been able to practice aquaculture here back then, but not viticulture.
My post was about the absurdity of the unfounded claims of Ms. Nicholas that the modern wine industry is doomed unless the vineyards relocate. Now, I like a glass of wine, but at the end of the day if the industry does indeed change then wine-drinkers will adapt. Ms. Nicholas got paid for a sensationalistic article, some readers got the bejesus frightened out of them and I'm left scratching my head.
Once again, we will have to agree to disagree.

NHW: Do not get me started on the hidden political agenda behind all of this. I am not a conspiracy theorist at all, I don't have one paranoid bone in my body, but I do object to a group of people/politicians/scientists who would seek to control the population by using climate change as a tool to promote a particular agenda, whilst an unsuspecting populace has that agenda foisted upon them. Carbon credits? Puh-lease, they're just a restructuring of tax burdens.
I'm with you, the arrogance of those who claim that they can effect, or halt, change for us all when, at the end of the day, the output from that large gaseous star that we call the sun is unchangeable. The sun has just 5 billion years left before it becomes a Red Giant...and man becomes a footnote to history, just like the dinosaurs.

Thud: Well, if climate change is imminent, as the doomsayers predict, the San Francisco Bay Area summers are actually going to cool down (due to upwelling in the Pacific, stronger and colder winds and much more fog), conditions not really conducive to great grape-growing. But the Scientific American article claims that it will get hotter, not colder. It will get hotter inland: the Central Valley will be hotsy-totsy and we will have more raisins to eat and bucket loads of Amarone to wash them down with.

Thomas said...

But VG, we don't really disagree on what is happening. We disagree on whether or not antything can or should be done.

Truth be told, I have no faith in humanity anyway, an outlook that people's actions reinforce daily.

Ms. Nicholas and people like her are charlatans.

Incidentally, there is a move to make fracking rigs find a way to reduce methane, which they produce in abundance. So, someone is watching.

New Hampshire Wineman said...

He left out the conspiracy from the 1920s and early 30s that Hitler was a monster!

Jamie Goode said...

'desirable tannin' - I don't think this was meant to suggest that there are some tannins that are desirable and some that aren't - rather it's a clumsy way of saying that tannins and anthocyanins are desirable in red wines and we generally want grapes to have more of them

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso: I wouldn't exactly call Ms. Nicholas a charlatan, she is probably just an academic who really, really wanted to see her byline in a scientific journal.

NHW: But that's mainly all government twaddle. How about the person who told me recently that the weather is better in California because the 1% buy it! Yes, apparently black helicopters (why are they always black?) are cloud seeding in neighbouring states to divert bad weather from sunny California...yawn. You can't make this stuff up :)

Jamie: Welcome to Vinsanity (although I think you may have visited once before).
Yes, to be honest, I agree, I am sure that is what Ms. Nicholas meant to say. But there is already great variation in levels of tannins (and anthocyanins) between grapes varieties and where any particular grape is grown. I know you have been to Sonoma, but have you ever been to Temecula? The growers in Temecula can only dream of the colour extraction that producers in Sonoma achieve. Wine drinkers will persevere.