GLOBAL WARMING: GOOD FOR SOMETHING?
Global warming may be wreaking havoc on our planet but, for the Riesling industry at least, it’s been a boon. The recent Riesling Rendezvous conference highlighted the benefits that warm temperatures have bestowed upon the industry. The conference, hosted by winemaker Ernie Loosen and the president of Château Ste Michelle, Ted Baseler, was attended by over 35O professionals from all over the world. Speakers suggested that warmer temperatures worldwide were opening up new regions for Riesling and guaranteeing consistency in more traditional regions. It won’t last forever though – in time, as temperatures continue to climb, growers will be forced to adapt or move. Temperatures in classical growing regions such as the Rheingau, Wachau and Alsace have risen by just over 1 degree in the past 3O years, resulting in a consistency in high quality. At the same time, temperature increases have fuelled a rise in production in areas not known for Riesling, such as the Finger Lakes, Niagara or the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan.
While this development has been kind to cool climate fruit, new data highlights how global warming might affect Riesling’s future. Rising temperatures mean optimum production sites are moving further north, to higher altitudes and cooler sites, while viticulturalists are forced to look to different forms of canopy management to guarantee fruit balance. “As clonal material, rootstock and vineyard management continue to improve, it is unclear that the upper boundary of 15.2 degrees is set in stone,” added Dr. Greg Jones of Southern Oregon University. “But if temperatures rise by another 1.5 to as much as 5 degrees, as we expect, and rainfall patterns change, warmer regions with lots of sunshine hours, like the Clare or Eden Valleys in Australia, will have to adapt.” 2O1O is predicted to be the hottest year on record worldwide, due in large part to El Niño.