Climate Change, Wine and Minnesota

Climate Change, Wine and Minnesota

These three things may not seem to go together, but bear with me, they will.  And you may not like why.

I, like many others, occasionally enjoy a nice glass of wine.  I like wine from France, Spain, Italy, California, Washington, New York, Oregon.  I have enjoyed many an excellent English sparkling wine (don’t call it Champagne) in the last few years.

I have yet to find a wine from Minnesota that I like.  That may change but for not for a reason I like.  Climate change is altering many things about the wine world.  Temperature and weather changes in traditional growing regions are making it more difficult to grow consistent crops and are impacting the quality of the grapes.  Regions not typically known for having a good climate for wine are becoming warm enough to give them a fighting chance.

A September 2020 article in Forbes by Alex Ledsom entitled “How Climate Change Is Altering Your Favourite Glass Of Wine” provides some interesting facts.  Summer 2020 brought the earliest harvest in in six centuries, as reported by Bloomberg.  In Champagne, the grapes were picked the earliest ever recorded. All over France, wine harvests were impacted by an unusually warm spring following an unusually mild winter.  Harvesting at some vineyards is being done during the night because it has been so hot.

Just as bad, it is getting harder to get the amazing and subtle flavors of wine in areas impacted by climate change.  Harvests are earlier and grapes do not do as well in the terroir (fancy wine word for soil).

The Los Angeles Times reported that California is seeing less fog, which increases heat which increases the speed at which the grapes mature. The complex ballet of acid, sugar, color, smell and ultimately flavor becomes harder to manage and puts the beauty of wine at risk.  Consider this when reflecting that the U.S. is the fourth-largest wine producer in the world (after Italy, France and Spain) and that 80% of all U.S. wine comes from California (most of that is from the Central Valley and few drinkers of that wine would likely notice.)

But Minnesota?

Maybe.  We know that in France, milder winters and hotter summers will change how, where, what and why wine is grown.  As areas closer to the equator get hotter, areas traditionally further north that have suitable soil are becoming and will continue to become suitable for fine wine grape production.  England, home to ales and ciders, is now growing amazing grapes for sparking wines and vineyards are already looking at other grapes.

One of the most prestigious wine growing regions in all the world is Burgundy, France.  It lies at 47 degrees latitude.  Brainerd, Minnesota, home to amazing lakes and cabins lies at 46 degrees latitude.  Get ready for a lot of wines names after loons, the Minnesota state bird.

Or we can focus on technologies and opportunities to decarbonize, reduce waste and participate more fully in a circular economy that helps protect and preserve our environment and way of life.  The choice seems pretty clear to me.

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Todd Taylor

Todd Taylor

I work with impact companies and the investors that fund them. Developers, technology companies, private equity, venture capital and infrastructure funds hire me to help with developing and financing sustainable and impact projects, including renewable and conventional energy projects, clean tech, agriculture tech and food tech companies and infrastructure projects. I get hired because I get results. Read Todd's Bio.

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