Wining about Climate Change - Report on the Harvest in the Southern Hemisphere

Wining about Climate Change - Report on the Harvest in the Southern Hemisphere

August 2, 2009 01:19
by J. Wylie Donald

The August Wine Spectator reports on the grape harvest in the Southern Hemisphere.  I wondered whether the extremes of weather characteristic of climate change would evidence themselves in the grape.  The theory was vindicated in Australia where record-breaking heat challenged vintners.  And in Chile there was no rainfall from October through harvest.

But to stop there would not be telling the full story.  New Zealand had moderate conditions at harvest and in South Africa, “the Stellenbosch and Paarl growing districts enjoyed ideal conditions.”  All of which proves two points about climate change.  First, the effects of climate change will not be uniform - some will have record-breaking heat, while others will have ideal conditions.  Second and more significantly, a single glimpse in a wine journal, even if it canvases half the globe, tells us nothing about changes in the climate.  More helpful would be a compilation of harvest reports over five- or ten-year periods, which would start to inform us of how climate change is impacting the wine industry.

Many of you have undoubtedly noted that vineyards are not high on the list of carbon dioxide emitters.  Nor have other greenhouse gases been traced to the vine.  Thus, vineyards will not be addressing the causes of climate change; instead, they will be reacting to it.  Can the industry do anything about record-breaking heat or a lack of rain brought about by climate change?  

One tool in the arsenal is the purchase of weather insurance.  A rapidly growing offering is that of Weatherbill.com, which asserts on its website that  

WeatherBill offers new weather coverage to protect growers from losses due to rain, drought, excess cold or heat.  Weather coverage pays based on a weather event, not a loss, so there is no underwriting or claims and settlement takes place immediately. There are no limitations, exclusions or deductibles, and coverage can be designed to protect specific portions of the crop cycle such as planting or harvest.

Think of it!  No limitations.  No exclusions.  No deductibles.  All you have to do is know how much of a certain type of weather is bad for your business and how much protection you need.  I think the WeatherBill people are on to something.

We are out of space, but the Wine Spectator also piqued our insurance palate’s interest.  Wildfires produced a minor smoke taint in South African Cape wines.  We leave it to you to ponder “property damage” in a product that is sometimes described to its consumers as having “raspberry  notes with hints of smoke and vanilla in the finish.”

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