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Napa Wineries Face Global Warming

on 19/01/15 at 12:05 pm


index11As revelers uncorked wine bottles to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year, more of them were celebrating with a glass of California-grown Pinot Noir than a decade ago. But the growing market for this complex, subtle wine could soon run up against climate conditions that make it increasingly difficult to grow top-quality wines in the state, especially ones that do best in cool climates, like Pinot Noir.

It just goes to show, scientists say, that which wines become popular has more to do with personal taste and marketing than with warming temperatures and water availability.

“Pinot Noir is being grown in hot areas of California where it doesn’t grow so well,” said Andrew Walker, a professor of viticulture at the University of California, Davis. “The public wants it, and so we’re making it, even if it’s not that great.”

Nearly 260,000 tons of Pinot Noir grapes were crushed in California in 2013. That’s four times the 58,000 tons crushed in 2003, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

In recent years, Pinot Noir has been extensively planted in coastal Sonoma County, where the grapes produce top-quality wines. But the grape has also spread to warmer parts of California. In 2013, some 23,000 tons of Pinot Noir were crushed in the hot Central Valley, in the area between Madera and Kern counties.

Pinot Noir is a particularly finicky grape, said David Graves, the co-owner of Saintsbury Winery, in Napa Valley’s Carneros region, which produces renowned Pinot Noir wines. The marine fog that enters San Francisco Bay blankets Carneros and makes it an ideal place to grow good Pinot Noir.

“It doesn’t flourish in a lot of climates. It’s not a very forgiving grape,” said Graves. “It tends to like cooler spots.”