Chow Town

Wine industry already changed by climate

The press, courtesy of the University of Maryland, is abuzz with the notion that climate change will result in significant changes in the wine industry.

They report that France’s industry will have to change and will probably be a “loser” as the marketplace adapts to shifting vineyard conditions.

News alert: There are already significant changes in the wine industry and climate change is the least of the French wine industry’s worries.

France has generally buried its head in the sand as the wine consuming public has tired of their staid style and has embraced new and more interesting regions, grapes and wines.

There are certainly big changes happening in the vineyards, but the changes have been happening for decades.

Ask any German vintner, the last 30 years have been the hottest on record in the vineyards. Those records go back to the 14th Century.

Ask Oregon and Washington — and California to a degree — all of which saw remarkably cold weather in 2011 as the coastal climate moved inland, perhaps courtesy to higher temperatures inland.

Any vintner worth his or her sulfur has been aware of how the climate is slowly altering the condition of their grapes. They make adjustments, because that’s what winemakers and grape growers have done their entire careers.

Sadly, most of the U.S. Congress continues to ignore the demonstrable changes in climate.

When these matters reach the tipping point — if they haven’t already — they will result in changes far more catastrophic than having to shift grape varieties.

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.