Environment

America’s Next Wine Country

Global Warming may shift wine production to the East Coast.

October 2, 2006
Palmer Winery, Aquebogue, Long Island. [CREDIT: SABINA BORZA]
Palmer Winery, Aquebogue, Long Island. [CREDIT: SABINA BORZA]

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.

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About the Author

Sabina Borza is a lover of life, culture, and science. After flirting with medicine, veterinary medicine, and primatology, she realized she was better suited to dabble in many fields as a writer rather than devote herself to one academic pursuit. She holds a biology degree from Clark University, but will probably return to school every couple of years for the rest of her life.

Discussion

4 Comments

Vio says:

Sounds good for East Coast wine lovers ! It is about time US putting the technology to work for us…with some help from Mother Nature. Nowadays we have choppers, infrared imaging and temperature control,etc., that should help getting rid of ancient winemaking technologies. I suggest this issue to be subject of future reports.

You start walking my way and I’ll start walking yours and we’ll meet in the middle. New York state has recently released 3 new winter hardy grape varieties. California will have to develop heat resistant grapes. But for those of us who love our Cabernets, Merlots, Shiraz, Chardonnay etc. maybe New York state wineries will be growing our traditional grapes keeping us happy.

WineFemmeNY says:

This is good news for East Coast wineries, but let’s not forget that they have already been successfully growing cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and many vitis vinifera grapes, for over 30 years; and making some very fine wines.

Dragos says:

Nu sunt un mare consumator de vin, dar ma ingrijoreaza si pe mine efectele incalzirii globale, care afecteaza nu numai viile, ci tot ce este viu pe planeta asta ! E bine ca exista tineri ca tine, care pot trage semnale de alarma punctual, cum este articolul de fata, pentru a incetinii macar acest proces de degradare a biosferei ! Tineri cu asemenea preocupari sunt o speranta pentru planeta asta.
Good work !

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