Friday, May 2, 2014

Anthony Watts doesn't have reds under his bed (or in his cellar)

Sou | 12:19 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

There's another "claim" article at WUWT (archived here). This time Anthony Watts is mocking a study of the impact of a changing climate on Spain's coveted red wine grape variety, the Tempranillo.  Tempranillo is described here as:
Red. Superb quality and very aromatic, the star of Spanish grapes. It is called Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in Castile-La Mancha and Madrid, and Tinto Fino and Tinto del Pais in Castile and Leon. It flourishes in Burgos, La Rioja, Alava, Cuenca and Ciudad Real. It is considered a main variety in the following DOs: Calatayud, Cigales, Conca de Barbera, Costers del Segre, La Mancha, Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Somontano, Utiel-Requena, Valdepenas, and Vinos de Madrid.

CreditMick Stephenson

There's a nice article about Tempranillo on JancisRobinson.com.

Not unusually, Anthony Watts didn't say where he copied his article from. Not a hint of a link.  Still, it wasn't hard to find the source as Basque Research (though I doubt Anthony copied it from there).  According to the press release, scientists grew the grape under different conditions. They tested for changes to three factors: climate change, water stress of the plant and soil texture.

To test for the impact of climate change, they studied what would happen with higher CO2, higher temperature and lower relative humidity, compared to vines situated in current climate conditions. They subjected vines to different moisture regimes:  properly hydrated plants (20-35% of water content in the soil) compared to vines subjected to water stress, irrigated with 40% less water. As regards the soil, three different textures were studied with clay contents of 9%, 18% and 36%.

So that's a lot of variables to compare.  What did they find?  Well, as expected, change affects the grape which affects the wine.  From the press release:

  • Climate change was found to bring forward the grape harvest by nine days. This reduced the anthocyanin concentration, which resulted in red wines with less colour. It also caused an increase in the pH of the must. The pH level is a factor of interest for wineries, since it has to be low if the wines are going to be preserved optimally.
  • The water shortfall, for its part, delayed ripening –the grape harvest was carried out ten days later– and the growth of the vine was reduced. This fact also meant an increase in the pH of the must and a reduction in polyphenol content. Polyphenols are found in grape skin and pips and give wines aroma, colour and taste. 
  • The sandiest soils –with the lowest clay content– produced musts with a higher anthocyanin level, which yields wines with more colour.

The press release concluded with this statement, which probably annoyed Anthony no end:
The final aim of the study by Neiker-Tecnalia, the University of Navarre and the EEAD-CSIC is to make available information that will assist the wine growing sector in mitigating possible damage by the anticipated climate conditions or, where appropriate, to take advantage of the opportunities that may present themselves.
The climate is the factor that exerts the greatest influence on the suitability of a region for vine growing and wine production, since it directly affects the development of the vineyard and grape quality. Climate change is therefore an aspect that the sector needs to take very much into consideration.
The vineyard surface area across Spain amounts to 954,000 hectares, which is 5.6% of the total cultivated surface. The wine growing sector is an hugely important activity in terms of the economic value it generates, the population it employs and the role it plays in environmental conservation. 

Heaven forbid any practical research that will help wine grape growers in Spain, or anywhere else for that matter. The research is being carried out by scientists at the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development Neiker-Tecnalia, in collaboration with the University of Navarre and the Aula Dei (EEAD) Experimental Station of the National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).

You can read more about the research in English, or if you prefer it, in Spanish or Basque.

Anthony Watts is no wine buff

It will come as no surprise that Anthony Watts is no wine connoisseur. What's the bet he doesn't own a corkscrew? I can hear all wine-loving readers groan as they read how Anthony dismisses the study by writing:
Note: Despite the claim, the grape has been planted throughout the globe in places with diverse climates such as Mexico, New Zealand, California, Oregon, Washington State, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, Turkey and Canada.
It grows best at relatively high altitudes, but it also can tolerate a much warmer climate according to: researcher Sid Perkins “Global Vineyard. Can technology take on a warming climate?”. Science News http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-118376057.html  (29 May 2004).
- Anthony
Someone tell Anthony that there are wines and there are wines.  Wine grapes will grow in regions as far north as Quebec and as far south as Tasmania and places in between, even Queensland.  The same variety grown in different places will differ hugely. Wine grapes grown on different slopes in the same region will produce quite different wines. The same vines will produce different tasting wine from year to year, with slight changes in weather.

Follow the sheep

As for the Tempranillo grape, it's been the fastest growing grape variety in Australia. That's in terms of area planted, not in terms of how long it takes to grow.  You can read more about it here, from a wine perspective.  Hugh Hamilton of McLaren Vale bottles it as "Scoundrel" with his black sheep label and writes:
Tempranillo (pronounce it temp-ra-nee-oh) is the most widely planted red grape variety in Spain. It is to the Spaniards what Shiraz is to Australians. The Spanish make it into every style of wine from a light red to heavy, “slap-ya-chops” tannic reds.

It's not just Australia that used to ride on the sheep's back, I've read that in the Rioja region of Spain, the same country that grows Tempranillo is also home to sheep.

From the WUWT comments

There is no pleasing deniers. Model change and they cry that models are wrong. Do field trials and they are still not happy wanting either more or none. If you want to see ignorant and crass, read on. Otherwise, pull out the cork on a nice bottle of the red stuff.

Tom Moran says they should have run the field trials (eg of higher CO2) in his grandma's garden!
May 1, 2014 at 5:44 am
Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) says: May 1, 2014 at 3:31 am ‘The research has been conducted in a greenhouse environment’ “Annnnd THAT’S where it FAILed for me.”
Me to! Does anyone actually prefer grocery store bought greenhouse/hothouse tomatoes over vine ripened, picked from grandmas garden, bursting with flavor and juice tomatoes? No, I didn’t think so….

Bruce Cobb is a dumb as conspiracy theorist. I mean he doesn't even know what Lysenko did. He says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:02 am
My bogosity meter on this “study” pegged. Creating a fictitious environment with the pathetic excuse that it’s what “could” happen, and then examining the results of that fictitious environment isn’t science.
Furthermore, negative results from the “experiment” were not only expected, but were a requirement. We are watching nothing but a repeat of Lysenkoism on a massive, worldwide scale.

Bryan A pretends to be a wine buff, but sounds more like a wino. He wants more research on different varieties in different conditions and says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:07 am
They need to run the same test on different varieties of grapes. During the drought of 1977 (a very DRY year in California’s history) the wine industry produced some highly valued wines. Rieslings that were normally $15 per bottle were being sold for upwards of $200 each. Because of throw DRIER CONDITIONS combined with the LATER HARVEST the Brix (natural sugar level) was much higher and produced a white wine that was still good over 20 years later. We opened our last bottle for our 15th wedding anniversary in 1999 and discovered that at 22 the wine was still superior

hunter doesn't find it "credible" and says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:38 am
This grape study could be no less credible if Lewandowsky had authored it.
It has everything: deception, distraction, a pre-determined outcome, contrived evidence, cherry picking- in other words, a typical product of the climate hype industry.

RoHa is more concerned about Anthony's geographism than the fate of his favourite wine grape and says:
May 1, 2014 at 3:24 am
“with diverse climates such as Mexico, New Zealand, California, Oregon, Washington State, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, Turkey and Canada.”
Strange that you spell out three US states, but not the relevant states/provinces of Australia, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada. There are enormous variations in climate in all those countries. Even Canada. And the climate of the south coast of Turkey is different from the mountains in the North East.

MattN is about the only person at WUWT who seems to have a clue about wine and says:
May 1, 2014 at 4:06 am
Of course they will change with a changing climate. All grapes do. +/- an inch of rain or +/- half a degree over the growing season changes the flavor. Hell, PICKING THE GRAPES AT NIGHT makes the wine have a different flavor!
It’s kinda what makes wine so awesome. It’s always different every year. Some years its spectacular. 


  1. Tony may not have reds under his bed, but he sees them in every story about climate change!

  2. Was Anthony speaking as a sommelier, an oenophile, a vintner, a dipsomaniac or a crackpot? Silly question, the answer is obvious. He should read this Bloomberg article "Raise a Glass of Scottish Wine to Global Climate Changes" from 26 March this year. It covers a lot of the issues that went over Anthony's head or were beyond his comprehension.

    In the comments below the Bloomberg article, it's got the a couple of illiterati posting their usual rubbish. They totally missed the opportunity to ask the question: How many people does it take to drink a bottle of Scottish wine? Ans: Four. Two to pin the drinker to the ground and the fourth to pour the wine down his throat. h/t to the Roman historian, Suetonius aka Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commenting on English wine in his lost work, The Physical Defects of Mankind. [Hey, if the illiterati can twist the truth, so can I.]


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