Finding The Silver Lining

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A worker cuts a cluster of grapes in the Burgundy region of France during the harvest period. Global warming has made conditions historically associated with great wines more frequent in Bordeaux and Burgundy, a study finds. But things look less bright for California vineyards. Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

We admit that we stretch, as frequently as we can, to find alternatives to doom and gloom environmental news.  We submit the following as Exhibit A if a case is to made to prove the point that there is always a silver lining to be found (thanks to National Public Radio, USA):

An Upside To Climate Change? Better French Wine

While climate change threatens coastal cities and generates extreme weather, the effects of global warming could bring good news to some of France’s most esteemed vineyards.

Here, the conditions needed to produce early-ripening fruit – which is historically associated with highly rated wines – have become more frequent, according to research published online Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Before 1980, you basically needed a drought to generate the heat to get a really early harvest,” says the study’s co-author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. “But since 1980, it’s been so warm because of climate change that you can get the hot summers and really early harvests without needing a drought.”

In other words, human-induced warming has become so pronounced that even drenching summer rains cannot always absorb, and reduce, the heat that helps ripening grapes develop sugars, acids and tannins.

Overall, this has meant earlier-than-average harvests, more frequently. That’s potentially a good thing for winemakers in the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, where Cook and his co-author, Harvard University’s Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, focused their research.

“There is a very clear signal that the earlier the harvest, the much more likely that you’re going to have high-quality wines,” Cook says.

But Cook says the traditional reasoning that hotter weather, and an earlier harvest, means better wine may only hold true to a point. He notes that in 2003 an extremely dry, warm growing season preceded one of France’s earliest harvests on record. Grape growers were harvesting their fruit in mid- to late-August – several weeks earlier than usual.

“But the wine quality was kind of middling,” Cook says. “That suggests that after a certain point, it could just get to be so warm, and the harvest so early, that you move into a situation where the old rules no longer apply.”

In fact, other research has predicted that global warming could redraw the entire global winemaking map. A paper published in 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warned that grape growers may need to move their vineyards to higher latitudes and higher elevations to beat the heat of global warming…

Read the whole story here.

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