Climate Change Brought a Cabernet Sauvignon Boom. Now It Could Cause Winegrowers to Co-Plant New Grape Varieties.

NAPA VALLEY, Calif.--()--A wine industry conference titled ”Bordeaux in America: The Climate Disruption” was held on June 7, 2018 at Ramekins Event Center in Sonoma, California, just 20 minutes outside of Napa Valley.

“Climate change really helped us for the last 30 years”

Disruptive new information about the future vineyard installation in Napa Valley emerged from the conference, when climatology, grape growing and wine economic experts spoke about the effects of climate on luxury winegrowing.

Climate change may be robbing Northern California Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers. Before sunrise, growing season temperature in luxury wine country has been rising at a higher rate than during the day since 1980s. Winemakers are watching the increase in average growing season temperature (GST).

Some of the vintners said it was just too early to reveal that climate change was the proximal cause of rising temperatures. Back in the late 1990s, Chardonnay growers feared vintners would be less interested in luxury priced fruit if it were true. Since the early 1980s, climate change had warmed the cool climate past the ideal temperature for Chardonnay. Now, scientists and some vintners are worried that the climate might eventually warm even too much for Cabernet Sauvignon and are asking how much longer the high scores can last. That’s worrisome as scores support prices of batches of more than 1,000 cases of Napa Valley Cabernet-based wines.

“Climate change really helped us for the last 30 years,” says Doug McKesson, Program Chair for Bordeaux-in-America conference, sponsored by Enologix, a supplier of wine quality measurements and analytics to luxury wine producers in Napa and beyond. “Climate change is forcing me to modify my advice; in probably the next 30 years I can imagine reducing plantings of Bordeaux grapes that have lower optimum temperature requirements. Merlot is one example. One solution may be to include more Petit Verdot to maintain our quality.”

McKesson says, “Napa is the benchmark region by which Cabernet Sauvignons are judged. Currently, the luxury priced and highest scoring cabernet wines are grown in regions with a GST below 66ºF (19ºC). Consumer priced wines are grown where GST is above 68ºF (20°C). By 2039, one prognosis says GST will increase above 68°F (20°C) for parts of Napa Valley. Nothing else made sense to Enologix but to sponsor the Bordeaux-In-America conference and to pivot speakers around the climate disruption.”

“Today, the business problem is how do we predict the performance outcome before we spend the capital to create new vineyards which will thrive 20 years from now,” says McKesson. “There is a paucity of meaningful information about the optimum temperature standards for varietals to inform winegrowers who are planting new vineyards now.”

“Given that climate models project warmer temperatures in the Western United States, we must ask ourselves if luxury wine scores and prices will be supported in California when GST approaches 70°F (21ºC)? What’s troubling is that there is no luxury wine made in volume in regions with a current GST above 68°F (20°C),” says McKesson.

To learn more about Bordeaux in America conference and Enologix, visit or contact Doug McKesson at 707.938.9463 ext 2.


Enologix, Inc.
Doug McKesson, 707.938.9463 ext 2
Program Chair

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Release Summary

Wine industry conference highlights new information about future vineyard installation in Napa Valley due to effects of climate change.

Enologix, Inc.