Climate change

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Climate change has been good for winemakers, but that may be changing

A fine wine, they say, is born from its terroir, a unique combination of soil quality and winemaking tradition. It turns out that atmosphère also matters. A new study finds that global warming has, for now, helped wines—by leading to the early grape harvests that in turn correlate to quality—but that the relationship is becoming less stable. Using 400-year-old vineyard records from eight winegrowing regions in France and Switzerland, researchers looked at how climate affected the date of grape harvests from 1600–2007, and how those factors correlated to wine quality. In general, an early grape harvest—and a good wine—depends on a wet spring, a hot summer, and a late season drought. The researchers found that grape harvests have come on average 10 days earlier since 1981, thanks to higher summer temperatures. In other words, global warming has been good to wine, they report today in Nature Climate Change. But all is not good. Before 1981, hot summer temperatures typically came in drought years, and drought was an essential predictor for an early harvest and a good wine year. Now, the hot summers arrive with or without drought—a sign that the climatic relationship is not holding. If temperatures keep rising, grape varieties will eventually reach their limits for heat tolerance, other studies suggest. Places like Spokane, Washington, could end up as the new Napa, California.  

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