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Climate Change and California Wine

April 13, 2013

A report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week warned that climate change could have a devastating impact on California’s wine industry. The study warns that California could experience a 70 percent reduction in wine production by 2050, as the area suitable for grape cultivation shrinks to narrow strips along the coast and high evaluations.

The Impact of Climate Change on Wine Production in the Western United States (image courtesy Conservation

The Impact of Climate Change on Wine Production in the Western United States (image courtesy Conservation International)

 

The map, published by Conservation International, highlights the scope of the changes. By 2050, areas in red, which are currently major sties for premium grape (especially pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon) production in California, would no longer be suitable. Green areas are those that are currently suitable and would remain suitable into the future. Areas in blue are currently too cold for grape production, but would become more suitable as the climate warms. Napa Valley, Mendocino, and Sonoma will quickly become too warm for viticulture. Oregon and (especially) Washington, on the other hand, could see expanded production as the prime growing areas migrate north.

If their model is correct (it assumes a two degree Fahrenheit average global temperature change by 2040, which is well within most forecasts), California’s $18.5 billion wine industry could be forced to undertake dramatic measures to adapt, either relocating production sites or shifting to heartier (and less desirable) varietals.

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