Journal | December 18, 2018
On Saturday, December 15, 2018 officially became the wettest year in recorded history for our region. This gave us winegrowers a sort of perverted sense of satisfaction, knowing that it is possible to produce serviceable wines under the most extreme conditions. We do hope the record stands.
Climate is what you plan for and weather is what you get.
Weather extremes of any kind are rarely a desirable occurrence for anyone who farms. We like normal, average and typical because this is exactly what we plan for when we make our planting decisions. In new winegrowing regions such as Virginia we are still very much in an exploratory phase concerning the best marriage of variety, soil and climate. So when asked about the impact of climate change, we are a bit unsure, although we do know that it will probably bring unpleasant surprises.
However, European time tested vineyards are experiencing a more significant and dramatic influence. Not that the climate in Europe is changing any faster, but because they have had centuries to fine-tune a very precise relationship of grape variety, growing techniques, and ideal slopes to make arguably the world’s greatest wines. There is a “sweet spot” in the ripening cycle that is necessary to produce great wines. “Ripe, but barely ripe”, is a phrase often used. In order make a wine of balance, ageability and complexity, the grapes need to ripen slowly under cool conditions. If the climate changes, so does the promise of great wine unless we change.
This summer I visited some impressive vineyards in Niagara Canada. I’ve had some complex and precise English sparkling wines for New Year’s celebrations. We enjoyed a tasty Vermont red wine with Thanksgiving dinner. There are now vineyards in Norway and Sweden.
While this climatic silver lining all fun and exciting, I’m concerned about what happens next, especially for the classics that inspired me to start growing wine many decades ago.