In 2004, independent filmmaker and ex-sommelier Jonathan Nossiter administered a grand cru skewering to some of Big Wine’s biggest wigs with his quirky, accusatory documentary Mondovino. In one of the film’s more memorable scenes, Michael Mondavi, son of the late Robert Mondavi, shares his dream of one day making wine on the moon.
With a space program now focused on the exploration of Mars and points beyond it’s very long odds that any of us will ever taste a Mondavi Sea of Tranquility Cabernet — but if the kind of climate change we’ve experienced here on The Big Blue Marble in the last 50 years continues at anything like the current pace, it’s very likely that within another half century we’ll be sipping wine from places that are today only a little less improbable than the lunar surface.
Consider the map provided by conservation.org as part of its report on the impact of climate change on world vineyards published in April of 2013.
In it, red identifies growing regions currently well-positioned in terms of mean temperatures and rainfall (the researchers refer to this as “suitability”) for the production of wine grapes. Areas that many global climate models (GCM) agree will likely retain suitability in the next 50 years are tinted light green. As you can see, it’s a vanishingly small subset.
The threatened regions aren’t identified by name on the map, but it looks as though Bordeaux, the entire Rhone Valley, Languedoc, Burgundy (Chablis, too), what appear to be parts of Champagne, a sizeable chunk of Portugal, Italy’s Piedmont, Tuscany, and including Germany’s prize vineyards along the Saar, Mosel, and Rhine rivers are all in line for some dramatic changes.
We’re talking about the very heartland of wine in Europe; the historic core of the kingdom of vitis vinifera established by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Etruscans when they colonized the Mediterranean world in the late Iron Age, carried north into Celtic and Germanic lands by the Romans, and eventually brought to a state of perfection under the leadership of the institutional medieval Church.
Read it and weep hot tears.