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Champagne,Enology,Environment,France,Musings,Opinion,Wine

Not only in American, but Ancient European Vineyards are Showing Signs of Global Warming

Yes, I could say this for any wine growing region in the world. I’m just going after the two most talked about, to get your attention. Now, down to business.

For anyone who changed the terminology from global warming to climate change, I believe the process slowed down more than a bit. Now, thanks to Greta Thunberg’s energy, her presence has reversed all of that; reminding us that big things do come in small packages, and we darn well better get busy, or we’re all in trouble. Birds and insects are disappearing. It’s only going to go up the food chain… right into all of us.

I wasn’t asking for a quote from the Champagne Bureau, USA. The following information just came to me in their usual updates. While it talks about a great 2019 harvest, global warming is still an impending issue, so read on.

From the Champagne Bureau

EPERNAY, France  – Champagne has experienced the effects of global warming, with an increase in average temperature of 1.1°C [33.98°F] across the past 30 years. This has so far proved an advantage for our wines, and the winegrowing year 2019 is no exception. Periods of frost in spring did destroy a proportion of buds, but the main factor was heatwave, especially in June and July, which caused scalding that burned up more than 10% of the potential harvest. This was a year when Champagne experienced its highest temperatures on record, with 42.9°C [109.22°F] recorded on 25 July.

With hot and sunny conditions in August and September, combined with cool nights on the run-up to the harvest, the vine displayed an exceptional ripening dynamic, producing musts with a good balance of acidity and sugar plus an aromatic concentration that promises well for the future cuvées.

I do understand this is going to give us some decidedly delicious Champagne wines, in the short term. Get ready for anything with the 2019 on the label. Not every label shows a vintage. Non vintages (NV) is not something that Champagne houses do every year. It’s reserved for particularly good years, so this seems to be “that one!”

Here’s the impending issue

Every Yin has a Yang, right? Having actually been in France on July 25th, this past summer of 2019, I felt that extreme heat and everyone there was talking about it. I’m also letting you know about the slow-down in productivity, in most other industries, because of that heat. This is a big picture glimpse we all need to think about.

It was hot! It was so hot, indeed, that it was difficult to breathe, to be actively engaged. But, I went to work for a reason, so work I did. My sponsor Les Vins Georges Duboeuf had set up the appointment. I’m thankful  they did, and it was well worth every second. This soiree into learning was the chance of a lifetime, I wouldn’t waste on anything.

About Warming: Conversation with Sylvain Flache

 

First Credentials ~ Vignerons des Pierres Dorées ~ Sylvan Flache, managing winemaker at this co-operative, in Oingt, Rhones-Alpes, France.

This co-op is comprised of 180 growers, which range in size from only 1.2 acres to 50 acres. The total number of acres is 1,236. This gives him a lot of land to manage, to evaluate, and begin t make positive, necessary changes. So, I asked about global warming and told me, “We’re beginning to think about trellising, you know, to add some shade to our vines. It’s also difficult with the rains come; hail comes, too. Sulfur can burn the leaves in this heat.”

I had to look this one up to see what he meant by sulfur burning leaves and why it’s a problem. From the National Pesticide Information Center:

Sulfur is burned or vaporized to control fungus, mites, or insects. When sulfur is burned, it turns into a gas called sulfur dioxide. The gas can mix with moisture on plants to form an acid that can damage plant leaves. Breathing the gas can be harmful to human health.
As you can imagine, when leaves are burned, that plant part can no longer participate in photosynthesis. No photosynthesis equals a plant no longer participating in absorption of oxygen during the day and no release of carbon dioxide in the evening. The plant is no longer in balance with nature.

 

 

PHOTO: Notice  how low to the ground this vine is… Training to grow taller is going to take time.

 

 

PHOTO: SONOMA FOG – Robert Corson

 

Back in Sonoma County

My own neighborhood, in Sonoma County, for example, fog allows for growing Pinot Noir. Other regions that quickly come to mind are Burgundy and the state of Oregon. Without the damp weather (for, in Sonoma’s case), the grapes are too delicate to take too much sun and heat.

Fast forward to this past week – right here in Sonoma County – one days was 113°F [45°C] and I shut down, because work was discretionary and my discretion was to not expend any unnecessary energy… That’s what happens, productivity slows and in some cases just stops. Now, people begin to actively thinking about the future… Is there a possible migration from a weather change that’s only going to get worse? This may just be what has prompted mass migrations over time, in times where recording it for posterity was impossible, but we’re now getting a bird’s eye view. We don’t really know how bad it’s going to be, nor how fast. What we do know is that there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon. Would we not want to err on the side of caution and take measures, like winegrowers, right now?

All grape growers will have to consider pulling out there vines to plant something else that can take the sun, like Petite Sirah. Still, it takes a few years for new vines to begin to produce fruit. What if there’s not enough time for this. What if the heat becomes so strong and water supplies also begin to diminish, so that getting the vines to “take,” under these conditions, won’t even take?

See, the thing is, we don’t know how much time we have. We also don’t know when we have a container of nitro glycerine in our hands, how much vibration will set it off. Why gamble, why not work toward solutions to slow it down? Conventional means since the 60s’s warnings about “global warming” recently and simply became “climate change,”so those who are still taking all they can for themselves and not thinking long term consequences about how much people are taking from the earth…

It takes Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old child, to sail cross the ocean in a zero-emission yacht, to finally catch media’s attention. (Bravo, Greta, well done!) My friend Fredric Koeppel wrote in Facebook, “‘A little child shall lead them,’ said Isaiah.” Someone brought up that Greta is NOT a child. My response:

As a senior citizen, the mother of three adult women, grandmother of nine children… this young girl is STILL a child, Bobby Jim. She’s only 16 years old. As a child, she just won the “Alternative Nobel Prize’ for inspiring climate change advocacy.” Her spirited youth is concerned about the world she’s going to live in. Yesterday, I was appalled when someone I know stated that she never had any kids, so she doesn’t have to worry about the world she’s leaving behind.”

Really, if we love earth, we all need to start worrying.

Special thank you to Wine Business and Wine Industry Insight for publishing “Not only in American, but Ancient European Vineyards are Showing Signs of Global Warming.”

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