Climate change takes the blame for unusual weather anomalies around the world, but it could also result in wine lovers’ bottles being a little less backbone, balance, or aroma, depending on how the Napa Valley drought affects next year’s grapes.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when man discovered how to pump untold tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, his enterprising activities have had a possibly irrevocable effect on the planet. Previously known as “global warming,” but perhaps better called “climate change,” concentrations of greenhouse gases, most significantly CO2, have been slowly increasing the average temperature of the atmosphere. “Normal” weather cycles, in an attempt to balance the warming effect, are becoming more erratic, causing excessive rain in some areas, leading to drought in other areas, not to mention unusual severe storm activity around the globe.
Our ability to grow food, from the plate of corn-fed steak to the accompanying cup of red wine, is also being put to the test by the uncertainties of climate change. For example, an unusually-harsh winter of 2013 wiped out some 30,000 cattle in the Dakotas, in the northern United States. Now, six months later, with the United States in full grip of summer, California is suffering the worst drought recorded in the last 120 years.
Wine growers in California’s Napa Valley fear for their livelihoods as they face trying to grow grapes on decades-old vines that have no water supply. Unfortunately, grape vines aren’t something that can simply be replanted next season, as with many other crops. If the vines die, the wines die, and it takes years to bring a new vine to maturity. Considering the California drought has been going on for nearly three years, it is estimated that it might take at least a few years of above-average rainfall to restore the region. Climate change = empty plate, empty cup.
Image © National Drought Mitigation Center