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The Grapes of Warmth: Wine and Climate Change

Bye-bye, Bordeaux: Global warming threatens the world's best vineyards.

By Michael McRaeSeptember 18, 2006 5:00 AM


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As if shrinking glaciers, rising seas, and catastrophic hurricanes weren't bad enough, global warming looks set to devastate the world's greatest vineyards. In regions like Bordeaux in France and the Napa Valley in California, maximum daytime temperatures have been relatively stable since 1930, says climatologist Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University. But minimum nighttime temperatures have risen significantly, causing grapes to ripen faster and creating an imbalance between sugar and acid levels.

The news isn't all bad: As the world's prime grape-growing regions shift to higher, cooler latitudes, today's marginal areas will become sweet spots. The wine industry in England, for example, is bigger now than at any time since the onset of the little ice age around the 14th century, when vineyards dating back to the Roman era were abandoned.

Some experts predict that Scotland will be among the premier wine areas of the future because of favorable soils and terrain. If they're right, connoisseurs may one day covet Château Loch Ness over Château Lafite-Rothschild.

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