The SOMM Journal

August / September 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 93 of 132

{ }  93 Drought With increasing temperatures, snowpack depth will decrease, leaving less water for crops the following season. So far this year, the Governor of Oregon has declared drought emergencies in 19 counties, an increase from nine last year. According to Dr. Gregory Jones, a top climate scientist at Southern Oregon University, one of the most pressing issues directly related to climate change and wine production in Washington and Oregon is consistent water availability. "The West could have access issues from shifting seasonality of pre- cipitation or changes in snow amount and timing." Most of us are aware of the on-going drought in California, so it's only a matter of time before we see similar droughts in Oregon and Washington as temperatures increase further. Increase in Premium Wine Production Sites One possible benefit of climate change on Washington and Oregon could be a shift in premium wine production. With increasing temperatures and reduced frost days, many vineyard sites will be more similar to today's premium wine growing regions in California, allowing for more premium vineyard sites in these states and longer growing seasons for better ripening. It's important to note that one major difference between the climate of California and that of Washington and Oregon is the humidity. While temperatures in Washington and Oregon are expected to increase, the humidity levels are also higher, thus potentially increasing disease pressure from molds and mildews. Premium wine production will certainly be possible due to increasing temperatures, but winemakers should be aware that they will need to keep up with technology to reduce disease pressure should humidity levels also rise. What about Pinot Noir? When you think of the Pacific Northwest, and Oregon in particu- lar, Pinot Noir is typically the first thing that comes to mind. Pinot Noir is a relatively sensitive fruit, with ideal growing temperatures between 14 and 16oC. As temperatures increase, will the Pinot vines need to be replaced with a more heat-tolerant variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon? Dr. Jones says no. He tells The SOMM Journal that the majority of the Pinot Noir regions "are still [on the] relatively cool side of the climate spectrum. Continued warming would push them up the ladder of Pinot Noir ripening, moving from more elegant, finessed styles to bolder, more lush Pinot Noir styles. But it would take 2 to 4 degrees of warming to do this for most areas, and a little more to make them likely not suitable, so there is some ways to go." The Future of Wine in Washington and Oregon In addition to increased premium wine production sites in Washington and Oregon, we'll likely see the rise of newer AVAs in that region. According to Dr. Jones, "Fifty years ago the Willamette Valley was a challenging place to grow grape: too cool and short grow- ing seasons with very wet falls. Now it is a prime Pinot Noir, cool- climate variety region with much more consistent and warmer growing seasons. Today, a similar place is the Puget Sound, right at the cool margin. [There are] numerous locations within the Puget Sound [that], with a little warmer growing season, could [make it] a prime cool-climate variety region." Conclusions At first glance, it would appear that climate change may actually be more beneficial for Washington and Oregon wine, at least for the next 50 to 100 years. With less frost and greater potential for premium wine sites, climate change might be looking pretty good for Washington and Oregon wine. Of course, drought pressure may put a damper on some of the more positive aspects that we expect to see, but improved tech- nology and increased awareness and conservation may improve the region's chances of becoming a top premium wine producer not only in the United States, but on the global scale. Selected References Diffenbaugh, N.S., White, M.A., Jones, G.V., and Ashfaq, M. 2011. Climate adaptation wedges: a case study of premium wine in the western United States. Environmental Research Letters 6: 024024. Jones, G.V. 2005. Climate Change in the Western United States Grape Growing Regions. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS), 689:41-60. Jones, G.V. 2014. Climate, Terroir and Wine: What Matters Most in Producing a Great Wine? EARTH 59(1): pg. 36. White, M.A., Diffenbaugh, N.S., Jones, G.V., Pal, J.S., and Giorgi, F. 2006. Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21 st cen- tury. PNAS 103 (30) 11217-11222. W A S H I N G T O N O R E G O N O R E G O N Climate Change Predictions by 2039 for Washington and Oregon Wine Countries COLUMBIA VALLEY PUGET SOUND WILLAMETTE VALLEY Increases in temperature by 0.6-1.0˚C in certain regions (ex. Columbia and Willamette Valleys). Increase in growing degree days from 100-200 in certain regions. Number of days below -6.7˚C expected to decrease. Number of days above 35˚C expected to increase. Number of days with frost expected to decrease. Increased drought pressure expected. Increased prominence of newer and developing AVAs expected (ex. Puget Sound AVA). Increase in premium wine production sites expected.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - August / September 2015