Grapes and Global Warming

Is Global Warming causing early Bud Break?

A lot of people ask me how the drought and global warming is affecting winegrowers around the state. I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t really know, I am not sure if anyone really does.

What I do know is that the vines in Napa are starting to bud; this is early, very early. This is about a week ahead of last year and about 3 weeks ahead of normal. What does this mean in respect to yields, quality and harvest dates? Who knows? Growers are usually tense with early bud break; a quick frost could wipe out the crop, but with above normal temperatures in February, there is little concern.

There are many months between now and harvest and Mother Nature will dictate how the grapes ripen not man. A couple of rainy days or cloudy days can quickly push back the harvest dates or more hot days could cause the fruit to ripen early.

If the fruit ripens too early it might affect the styles of wine made and the overall quality. When making elegant wines, one wants the fruit to reach maturity during mild and not hot conditions. This allows the fruit to gain sugar slowly while maintaining acidity levels. Also very hot days cause the fruit to ripen too fast causing sugar content to spike producing wines that might be flabby fruit-bombs. These fast ripening seasons also make it difficult to schedule and pick the fruit at an ideal ripeness.

All we do know; is from the grower, to the maker, to the consumer; everyone will be watching, hoping and praying for another fine vintage of wine. The “good” news is that one day we may be harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon in Anchorage. Now that would be a shock for all of the famous wine regions.