Napa Valley Winemaking Threatened by Climate Change

Wineries are at risk from several angles

Napa Valley
Napa Valley wineries face a changing environment.
Jesse Gardner

Since the year began, California and other states in the western US have felt the effects of climate change in numerous ways, including brutally high temperatures and wildfires. This has had a significant effect on the region’s agriculture and fishing, manifested in salmon migrating by truck and shellfish boiling alive. Napa Valley, where winemaking is literally a billion-dollar industry, is also facing a threat from climate change.

Wildfires destroyed some wineries last year, but the issue goes even deeper than that. A new article by Christopher Flavelle at The New York Times suggests that climate change is an existential concern for Napa Valley winemakers, and which suggests an uncertain future for the region.

Wildfires destroying crops and facilities are one of several issues that the winemakers who spoke with Flavelle raised. There’s also the matter of smoke from these fires ruining a crop, even when the fires themselves are far away, by causing a smoky taste to seep into the grapes’ skin. Record temperatures make up another risk — too much sun at a high enough temperature can turn grapes into what the article dubs “absurdly high-cost raisins.”

There’s another reason why Napa Valley wineries are featured in the article. As Flavelle points out, wineries are in a better position than most farming operations to invest money in figuring out how to work around a changing climate. If they’re having trouble, the article suggests, the situation for related industries might be even more dire.


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