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Wine skeptic takes on climate change report

  • Welcome to the great wine scare of 2013. It's adios to California's premium wines and adieu to Bordeaux.

The present wine world will soon go the way of the dinosaur. Welcome to the great wine scare of 2013.

It will be wine’s new world order: By 2050, the sure creep of climate change will spark a seismic wine shift taking premium grape production away from Australia, California, Chile, France, and South Africa — as new vines thrive in Canada, China, and parts of Russia.

The impending wine scenario was detailed in a paper published April 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In countless front page media articles, the report was presented as the death knell of the present wine industry and the tone of newspaper headlines was a gawker’s delight, mixing apocalypse and glee: “Grapes of Wrath,” “Doomsday for Wine Industry,” “California Can Kiss its Vineyards Goodbye,” and “Souring California Wine Grapes.”

Although it’s not the first study to predict wine Armageddon, the PNAS paper was touted as unique due to a global approach. Lee Hannah, lead author of the report and a scientist with Conservation International, presents the reordering of the wine world as a fait accompli: “The fact is that climate change will lead to a huge shakeup in the geographic distribution of wine production.”

Hannah’s projections predict a possible 85 percent drop in wine production in Bordeaux and Tuscany; a 74 percent drop in Australia; a 70 percent drop in California; a 55 percent drop in South Africa; and a 40 percent drop in Chile.

But the PNAS paper's end-of-days predictions have no credibility with Michel Chapoutier, a renowned French winemaker, who calls the report “exaggerated and full of mistakes.”

Chapoutier was interviewed by Decanter regarding his skeptical take on the climate report. “I am in no way a global warming denier, and am shocked not by the study itself, but by its conclusions.”

Chapoutier pulls no punches and levels charges of scaremongering in the PNAS report: “Scientific studies have a tendency to look so closely under the microscope that they miss the big picture … We are already looking at adapting yeasts, adapting vineyard practices to ensure the health of our vineyards. There are solutions out there, but we need to have the intelligence to allow them, not write off entire regions.”

Adios to California’s premium wines? Adieu to Bordeaux? Not according to the dissenting Chapoutier. He has drawn a clear line of demarcation: “The conclusions the study draws are exaggerated and full of mistakes — and clearly made by people who have no practical experience of winemaking.”

Chapoutier is not alone. “The study’s only points of distinction, though, are its purported global scope (which means the margin for error is larger) and its lack of rudimentary knowledge of contemporary winemaking,” writes Steven Hayward of the Ashbrook Center in City Journal.

“The great wine scare has been around for quite a while.”


Twitter: @CBennett71

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Discuss this Blog Entry 5

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 14, 2013

Who should we believe? An impartial climate scientist or someone with with a self-interest? We all know the effects of heat on fruit. Last years harvest in Oregon was alarming. Drought and heat caused brix levels to rise to a point where wineries worried they were going to have to produce California style pinots - heaven forbid! Change will come, maybe not in our lifetime, or mine at least, but let's not put our heads in the sand.

Donn Rutkoff (not verified)
on May 15, 2013

And what do you plan to do? Mention one yrs vintage in one spot on earth is a pretty small sample size. Ice ages came and went before human civ. Whose lifestyle do you plan to change? Yours, or someone else's?

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 14, 2013

Impartial climate scientist is an oxymoron. Climate researchers have ruined the peer review process in their clamoring to get and maintain grant money from governemnt sources. In exchange the governments use nonexistent environmental scares to increase their size , control, and power. Sure there is always some climate change, but overall the world has not increased in temperature in the last 16 years even a fraction of a degree. Anecdotal accounts of weather conditions from year to year are no indication of anything happening out of the ordinary. If local climate changes people just need to adapt. The golabal warming thing was changed to Climate Change when they go blasted for fudging the figures and it was poroven their was no warming. It 's all the same garbage that they keep pushing and destroying peoples lives and livelihoods for their own selfish and destructive wishes. I think everyone that beleives the Climate nonsense needs to get their heads out of the sand and think and investigate for themselves.

Allen Ritter (not verified)
on May 30, 2013

I agree with you 100%. We had a crazy consulant writing our county General Plan for the next 30 years, and he said we have to reduce our cattle population in San Benito County by 80%, due to the methane gas, and other environmental factors.Our Farm Bureau was ready to tar and feather him and send him out of town. It just shows how out of touch with reality these people are.

Phil Valentine (not verified)
on Oct 7, 2013

We explore the whole climate change issue in our new movie, An Inconsistent Truth. Not only do we talk to the scientists, we explore the culture of the global warming movement and get at the motivation behind it. Learn more at

Phil Valentine
Producer and Writer,
An Inconsistent Truth

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