Wine Image Gallery
Wine Image Gallery

Grapes like these can't handle the heat. See more wine pictures.

iStockphoto.com/YinYang

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Buy up those bottles of red Bordeaux, Mosel Riesling, Rioja, Chianti and Barossa Shiraz while you still can. No, it's not a rerun of Prohibition -- it's global warming.

While the wine industry isn't a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (around 0.1 percent of global carbon emissions), it could be a casualty of climate change within the next 50 years [source: Atkin]. Wine grapes are delicate and grow in a narrow band around the world. The cumulative effects of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are causing a change in climate pattern. In the last 100 years, the average global temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees F (0.7 degrees C) and is predicted to rise an average of 2 to 11.5 degrees F (1.1 to 6.4 degrees C) by the end of this century [source: EPA and EPA]. This temperature rise and the extreme weather patterns that will accompany climate change threaten this band of wine-producing regions worldwide.

In classic (French) winegrowing tradition, there are four ingredients that come together to produce great wine: the weather, the soil, the topography and the variety of grape. This is called the terroir, and it gives each wine a flavor specific to where the grapes were grown. For example, a Merlot grown in Bordeaux won't taste the same as a Merlot grown in Napa Valley because the terroir is different. Three of those four factors have always been thought of as safe from human influence: the slope of the vineyard, the soil and the climate. At least until now.

Wine grapes are generally grown in places where frost is rare, temperatures are moderate (on average, between 50 and 68 degrees F, or 10 and 20 degrees C) and there's just the right touch of rain and humidity. Any hotter and you're in the raisin industry.