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Published: Sunday, 7/23/2006

Save the grape

The glaciers (yawn) are melting. The hole in the ozone grows larger. Greenhouse gases are on the rise. The environment is threatened. Big deal. Global warming, global shmorming. The sky's been falling for years now. Yada, yada, ya - huh? What? Withering heat in Napa Valley? Sonoma sizzling? Santa Barbara on the barbie?


Parboil the Pinot? Cook the Cabernet? Mess with the Merlot? No, no! If there's any toasting to be done it should be with glasses raised - something fruity, like a nice Burgundy, but nothing pretentious, with a little residual sweetness.

Where were we? - ah, yes, global warming.

A recently released climate projection study predicts a rise in temperature that could diminish grape yields at California vineyards by the end of the century. (And we were just gaining on the French!)

An increased number of sultry days during the growing season could disrupt the delicate balance of temperatures necessary for premium grapes to thrive.

Suitable wine-growing areas would shrink to a narrow band on the California coast and force vintners to look to the Pacific Northwest and New England, where higher elevations would provide kinder, friendlier temperatures.

Of course, supercomputers, like sommeliers, can only digest what they're fed. The researchers assumed a rise in carbon dioxide and other gases at twice their current levels by 2100, a standard warming scenario. If temperatures moderate, however, California grapes may not yet join Earth's endangered species.

So before we singe the Chardonnay (crisp, with a hint of pear and lively acidity) and send those winemakers packing for New Hampshire, let's all take up the battle against global warming.

Save the grape - and stock the cellar.

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