America’s Next Wine Country
Global Warming may shift wine production to the East Coast.
In addition to its famous bagels and pizza, New York may add a new specialty by the end of this century: premium wines.
For wineries from Long Island to Lake Erie, global warming may cause business to boom as traditionally ideal wine growing areas on the west coast become too hot for sensitive grapes.
Previous research hinted that global warming may not have a large effect on U.S. wine production. But new research, which takes into account not only average growing season temperatures, but also daily temperatures, paints a much gloomier picture for the future of U.S. wine production.
“We see substantial reductions in the total area suitable for premium wine production in the United States―up to 81 percent,” says Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Purdue University, and an author of the study that appeared in the July 25 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study projects that by the end of the century, suitable premium wine growing areas will be largely limited to the Northeast, including parts of upstate New York and Long Island.
But the shift in wine supremacy may not be so simple. Even if New York’s future temperatures are ideal for growing premium wines, the state has its own climatic hurdles to tackle.
“If we are to benefit from any global warming, we need to see it with less humidity,” says Christian Baiz, a fourth generation vintner who founded Old Field Vineyards on Long Island in 1974.
Baiz, who keeps climate records in a daily log book, says that the possibility of soaring New York wine production excites him, but coping with humidity will be difficult. Premium wine grape varieties have specific temperature, humidity, and rainfall requirements. If these variables are askew, grapes may not reach their full potential. High humidity, especially, can encourage the rot, mildew, and fungus that can destroy entire wine crops and already plague New York vineyards.
Baiz suggests using sprays to help to control mildew. He explains that winegrowers must be “absolute[ly] diligent, you must stay scrupulously and meticulously clean to keep your vineyard healthy.”
And in California, wine growers are not going to give up without a fight. Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, an advocacy group made up of independent grape growers, thinks wine producers will adapt. According to Ross, by growing different wines than those being produced today, researching new rootstocks and clones for vines that adapt to different temperatures, and managing irrigation, California wine growers will be ready for the challenges that may come their way.