What can wine tell us about the future of life on earth?
Readership (docent) lecture in environmental science by Dr. Kimberley Nicholas.
Enthusiasts appreciate the “goût de terroir,” or taste of place, that reflects the unique conditions of both where and how wine is grown. This sensitivity has made wine a useful indicator of climate history, with harvest records used to reconstruct climate back nearly seven centuries. More recently, wine has become an important emblem of climate change, as wine regions struggle to produce traditional varieties and flavors in a world where climate change is redrawing the map. In this way, wine represents the half of wild plants and animals studied, who have already moved in space (range) or time (phenology) in response to climate change.
Wine also illustrates other important dynamics of climate change. The changes observed to wine composition and production highlight the urgent need to stabilize the climate within a range where ecosystems and societies can function well, and offers troubling insights into the challenges of feeding the world on a warming planet. Like many crops, only a few varieties of wine make up the majority of the global market; this homogenization and globalization makes the food system more vulnerable to the changing climate. The untapped potential to harness biodiversity within wine could offer substantial climate adaptation potential, but there are limits to adaptation, beyond which loss of traditional livelihoods, economies, and ways of life create existential questions about how to carry on and remake cherished values in a climate-changed world.
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