The National Weather Service began recording temperature across the U.S. in 1901. The year 2016 was the warmest, followed by 2020. This past decade was the warmest 10-year span on record.
Vintage write-ups have been filled with notes of extremes in addition to record-breaking heat: drought, humidity, fires. Grape farmers and winemakers across regions are faced with the task of growing quality fruit and making sound wine in unprecedented conditions.
In 2021, all around California, grape farmers prepared for a quick harvest after a year of extreme heat, hoping to pick grapes with adequate acid. Over in the Northeast, a steady rise in temperature has led to humidity and increased disease pressure.
Terroir is tied to more than just soil, flora and fauna. It is the taste of the climatic condition in which the grapes were grown. Fine-tuned palates can detect the nuances among wines grown on the same site in a cool, hot, wet or dry season.
As the climate changes, the fragile nature of Vitis vinifera is highlighted and the boundaries of ideal growing regions are being pushed. Some U.S. growers—and potentially some in the European Union, which recently approved their use—are looking to hybrid grapes and their non-vinifera parents as more stable vehicles not just to translate their terroir, but also to respect the environment.
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