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Climate change affecting world’s vineyards, but don’t believe wild speculation

Carbon dioxide measurements in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached average daily levels above 400 parts per million, the highest amount for at least three million years.

The world has changed forever, it would seem. Even the climate deniers have to feel chastened at the news that it’s not about the “usual cycles of temperature fluctuation.”

But remarkable too are the recent spate of articles portending eminent change in the vineyards of Europe and the New World.

It’s the newest silly story — wild speculation masquerading as journalism, in which we are told that Bordeaux region must plant Zinfandel, Burgundy should focus upon Syrah, and Germany and England are poised to become the red wine capitals of the world. What twaddle.

Make no mistake: things are changing in virtually every vineyard in the world. Things are heating up, but more than that, things are getting strange. It’s not global warming, many of us have insisted, it’s global weirding.

Germany has enjoyed its two warmest decades, the 1990s and the 2000s, since they began keeping such records in the early 1300s. The wines are better as a result.

America’s West Coast temperatures should be heating up to Death Valley conditions, but have instead gone the other direction. Why? Hotter inland temperatures have pulled cold Pacific air farther into the vineyards than ever before.

Yep, weird. And things are likely to get weirder.

But here’s the thing: we don’t know how this slow deterioration of the usual will proceed. Yes, it’s possible, perhaps even probable that 50 or 60 years from now these predictions will be spot on. But the destruction of civilization is not going to be as pat and cinematic as Hollywood’s

The Day After


The oceans will rise, I’ve no doubt, and the weather will become more chaotic but like a lobster slowly being boiled to death, we humans are unlikely to notice things until it’s far too late.

The world’s vineyards might be due for some changes, but it’s not the worst thing that global climate change is going to bring. Not by a long shot.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.