This article was originally published by Knowable Magazine . Soon after the devastating Glass Fire sparked in California's Napa Valley in September 2020, wine chemist Anita Oberholster's inbox was brimming with hundreds of emails from panicked viticulturists. They wanted to know if they could harvest their grapes without a dreaded effect on their wine: the odious ashtray flavor known as smoke taint. Oberholster, of the University of California, Davis, could only tell them, "Maybe." Industry laboratories were slammed with grape samples to test, with wait times of up to six weeks. Growers didn't know whether it was worth harvesting their crops. About 8 percent of California wine grapes in 2020 were left to rot. Winemakers are no strangers to the vicissitudes wrought by climate change . Warmer temperatures have been a boon to some in traditionally cooler regions who are rejoicing over riper berries—but devastating to others. Scorching heat waves, wildfires , and other climate-driven calamities have ruined harvests in Europe, North America, Australia, and elsewhere. And as 2020 showed, climate change can take its toll on grapes without directly destroying them. Wildfires and warmer temperatures can transform the flavor of wine, whose quality and very identity depends on the… Read full this story
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