Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Global Warming and No End

Lately I saw a chart showing that only 41% of the Americans believe in a climatic change in spite of daily pictures of melting glaciers and severe weather situations with strong winds resulting in storm damage and with local heavy rainfalls causing flooding.

Even over here in Europe you meet climate change deniers. The other day I had a discussion with an architect saying that the world has often seen climatic changes in the past and survived. I answered him with a title of a well-known film about ALS: Yes, but not so much so fast and and I forgot to say: This time no ice bucket challenge will help.

Which are the two states in the US and Germany mostly concerned about climatic change? Yesterday night the US ambassador to Germany John. B. Emerson answered the question in his Carl Schurz Lecture Shaping the 21st Century Transatlantic Relationship: California and Baden-Württemberg. The reason surely must be viticulture as Red Baron had learned the day before yesterday in reading two articles in Der Spiegel (No44, Früchte des Zorns not yet online) and the Badische Zeitung.

When I attended a wine tasting seminar at the Staatliches Weinbauinstitut in Freiburg ten years ago the experts told us that they were working on grape varieties fit to grow in warmer climates. In his book 1000 Years of Annoying the French written in 2010 Stephen Clarke hoped for better deals on champagne in England in the future with global warming causing ideal producing conditions shifting north from France towards vineyards with similar soil on the other side of the Channel.

In my youth wine growers in Germany desperately tried to accumulate as much sugar as possible in their grapes by harvesting late. Praising their Spätlese (late vintage) wines they still had to add sugar to reach the necessary degrees Oechsle.

Times and climate have changed. With global warming budding and flowering of grapes has shifted in Baden to earlier dates in the year. In addition grapes are now harvested early when sugar and acid are in an ideal equilibrium.

What may still be good for the quality of wine in Baden turns into a nightmare for winegrowers in France. As I learned; for them the increase in temperatures during the day is not the problem but the warmer nights are. Warmer winters too make that grapevines do no longer come to rest. As one vintner said: Grapevines must sleep; otherwise they are stressed and this has a direct influence on the quality of the wine. In the progressively warmer French climate grapes reach a high sugar content early in the year with the build-up of tannine and enzymes lagging behind thus changing the character of a terroir dramatically. Will we still be able to sip at a Medoc, Pomerol, Pauillac, Meursault, Chablis, Pommard having the same taste in ten years from now?

French winegrowers need not see pictures of polar bears on diminishing ice floes or of Bangladesh under water. They already know: Le changement climatique, il est là.

What will happen to my favorite Riesling growing on the south side of Freiburg's Schlossberg?

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