Friday, 11 September 2015

Impact of Climate Change on Viticulture Globally

Numerous articles have been published about the effects of climate change on the wine industry and mitigation strategies are already being implemented. It is always interesting to me that man feels compelled to control his environment. That usually lasts long into the period after realization has set in that controlling it is in fact impossible and moving on is a more sensible solution. But of course, moving on from an estate that's been in the family for centuries is not a really feasible proposition.

The higher likelihood is that someone recognizes the potential and establishes competition elsewhere which eventually becomes more successful. At that point, the original estate begins to need more income and finds new crops to plant that are more suitable to the new environment. At least, that's how I imagine things to work and have read similar stories.

Michelle Renee Mozell and Liz Thach write in their recent review article, "Though wine is not essential to human survival, wine is an important product of human ingenuity." They tackle the global literature  about the impact of climate change on the global wine industry. It's that human fascination with wine that makes wine production a sacrosanct activity and may even be the impetus that gets governments on board the climate change mitigation train.

The entire range of grape growing climate zones is about 10°C globally; for some grapes, such as Pinot noir, the range is an even narrower 2C°. Many progressive wine growers have already taken steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, including cooling the grapes by misting and changes irrigation practices. But in the long run, those types of practices will be affected by availability of fresh water as we are seeing in California. Some are changing the manner in which they process the grapes into wine and others are planting new more tolerant varieties or buying up land in more favourable climates. It is surprising how aware these growers are of the changing climate compared with the naysayers in the public domain. But of course, farmers and fishermen are always among the first to notice the changes, it's just that they are infrequently asked by the scientists to share their observations. Perhaps now they will be, especially as funding for science drops out.

But there are three areas that still need research to determine optimal strategies:
  • studies to identify how plants, microrganisms and pathogens will respond to simultaneous rise in temperature and CO2 while rainfall decreases in traditional wine growing regions
  • means by which to reduce emission of the greenhouse gasses, nitrous oxide and methane, by vineyards during the production of wines
  • resource management throughout the production chain

The authors conclude, "wine's future is tied inextricably to a vital Earth and a vital population. Grape growers and winemakers must understand both the dire condition of the planet and the small, but significant, role their industry holds in the human matrix. They must seek, therefore, in a responsible manner, their proper and effective role in the adaptation to and the mitigation of global climate change. The future of the wine industry is dependent upon an effective course of action. The Romans declared, 'Vino veritas,' or 'in wine there is truth'. The simple, yet tragic, truth is the Earth's climate is changing. How the wine industry responds will determine if the industry is to survive."
Wine Economics and Policy 3 (2014) 81–89
The impact of climate change on the global wine industry:
Challenges & solutions
Michelle Renée Mozell, Liz Thach
Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute, 1801 E. Cotati Blvd, Rohnert Park, CA 94928, USA

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The science of wine

Original edition cover.

Current edition.

Being a scientist by training, I would naturally be attracted to the scientific side of things, although I do believe that viniculture is as much an art as it is a science, perhaps even with a little witchcraft thrown in. Maybe like in the book Blessed are the Cheesemakers we should be humming the Sound of Music to the grapevines to make them grow luscious grapes.

Anyway, this title -- The science of wine -- by Jamie Goode caught my attention.  Curiously, the first edition has a subtitle FROM VINE TO GLASS. The second edition in the photo has the same subtitle and was published by University of California Press and is being sold for $39.95.  The copy I purchased has the title Wine Science and subtitle The Application of Science in Winemaking. Personally, I prefer the simpler from vine to glass which says it all without redundancy. The publisher's name, Mitchell Beazley, also appears on the cover of my edition, which is confusing as I have never heard of that imprint and it looked just like another author's name. That version is available on amazon for $23-26 and shows it being shipped from the UK. Not to be confused with the Wine Science, Fourth Edition: Principles and Applications (Food Science and Technology) July 7, 2014 by Ronald S. Jackson which sells for $122.45 in print and $77 in Kindle. All versions are hardcover. Confused yet? I was but it is worth the effort.
Current edition, different publisher?

The fact that the second edition was released April 1, 2014 makes it that much more interesting to me, as it's not only April Fool's Day it is my namesake day. Yes, St. Daria's Day is April 1. But I wonder why they changed the title. The edition I have shows up with a publication date of April 10, 2014.  So what made them change it between April 1 and April 10? It may be that one is published in the US and the other in the UK but why would both be available in both places. And why change it to a title that is already in use. Plus the author released a Kindle only supplement which has the chapters that were cut from the second edition but appeared in the first edition. Among them was the chapter on the effect of global warming, so naturally I had to buy that, too.

But anyway, I seriously digressed.  The book is divided into three sections. In the Vineyard, In the Winery, and Our Interaction with Wine.  That makes a lot of sense. As I sat down to read it, I was pleasantly surprised by the author's style. It is not overly scientific but rather quite readable.  The author's own knowledge and experience is supplemented by analysis of the most current scientific literature and interpretation by experts in each of the fields. It is a rich mixture of fact and opinion that he presents the reader.

The first part covers everything that affects the vineyard from the biology of the plants, terroir in terms of soil structure and climate, the interaction between roots and elements in the soil, key diseases and pests, different theories of plant management, biodynamics in the vineyard, moisture control and stress, and trellis systems, pruning and canopy management.  In a short 87 pages, I felt the author had imparted a wealth of knowledge that would serve us well in growing the grapes for the first few years.  I will come back to this book time and again.