Enthusiast's Corner September 2006

The Changing Climate of Wine.



Last week I had the opportunity to see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary addressing the issue of global warming. Among the many startling images, statistics and predictions that the film presented, two in particular stood out: The first was an image of a glacier, a photograph taken in the 1940s. It was followed by a contemporary video taken in the exact same spot of that same glacier…and only a vestige of it remained. A massive glacier that stood for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years…gone in the blink of an eye.

Global warming is the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases, due to growth in industry, agriculture, transportation and other factors since the Industrial Revolution. Up to recent times, light from the sun passed through these greenhouse gases (forming what some call the thermal blanket), reflected off the planet's surface and a fairly specific portion of the infrared radiation was trapped by the thermal blanket, maintaining an overall temperature we recognize as supporting our fragile ecosystem. Now, however, the thickening of this blanket of greenhouse gases is trapping much more of this radiation and increasing global temperatures. In decades to come we are potentially looking at the melting of polar ice, with a resulting rise in sea level and coastal flooding; disruption of drinking water supplies dependent on snow melts; more frequent tropical storms and tropical diseases; and profound changes in agriculture.

It is the agricultural changes that Roger Voss focuses on in his article of this issue. Roger, our European editor, has been watching this phenomenon for many years, collecting notes and statistics along the way. Recently he attended a number of conferences and interviewed dozens of experts to obtain the most precise and contemporary numbers and projections possible. The result is sobering news for wine enthusiasts across the board, from winemakers and growers to the most casual weekend sipper.

Elsewhere in this issue: Our editors offer no-holds-barred recommendations for the best Cabernets in the world. This is a daunting task and a great responsibility, so we needed to make some decisions on how to focus the story. First, we decided on a price point of $50 and above. Second, we decided that, in order to qualify, a wine had to be 75 percent Cabernet or more. And third, we wanted a broad global representation, rather than having one region dominate. (The 75 percent rule may seem arbitrary, but it's the same rule the federal government applies in its labeling laws.)

You'll find great bottles from California and France, of course, but also Washington State, Chile, Italy and South Africa. Cabernet is arguably the ultimate in red wines in terms of complexity, ageability, depth of character and in the way it reflects its terroir. We're very proud to be presenting the best of the best.

Michael Schachner introduces us to a wine region of Spain that gets little attention, both from the wine world and tourists to that beautiful country: Galicia. Located in the extreme northwest of Spain, bordering Portugal, Galicia offers the purest and most consistent expression of the fabulous white wine, Albariño.

On page 58, Margaret Littman exhorts the world to "eat your vegetables." Vegetarian cuisine has grown up over the past few decades, and whatever jokes we part-time carnivores might make about it are stale. Vegetarian cuisine is now flavorful, textural, full of variety and worthy of matching with fine wine. F. Paul Pacult cites the superpremium single-barrel whiskeys of Tennessee and Kentucky as being "America's first-growths."

Which brings me back to the subject at hand, and America's pride. For all our global might, we cannot turn the climate change situation around by ourselves. We will need the cooperation of developing industrial nations like China and India. But whatever changes are in store, I'm confident that American ingenuity can find solutions so that our children and grandchildren inherit a world not so different from the one we have today.

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