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As climate changes, so does wine

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 01:00 PM PST

If you want to buy good wine, Elizabeth Wolkovich says, you're going to want to stop looking at labels and just listen to your taste buds.

An assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, Wolkovich is a co-author of a new study that suggests that, although vineyards may be able to counteract some of the effects of climate change by planting lesser-known grape varieties, scientists and vintners need to better understand the wide diversity of grapes and their adaptions to different climates. The study is described in a Jan. 2 paper in Nature Climate Change.

"It's going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we've already committed to … for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they've grown in the past," Wolkovich said. "But what we're interested in talking about is how much more diversity of grape varieties do we have, and could we potentially be using that diversity to adapt to climate change?

"The Old World has a huge diversity of wine grapes — there are more than planted 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 percent of the wine market in many countries," she said. "We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change."

Unfortunately, Wolkovich said, convincing wine producers to try different grape varieties is difficult, and the reason often comes down to the current concept of terroir. Terroir is the notion that a wine's flavor is a reflection of which, where, and how grapes were grown. Thus, as currently understood, only certain traditional or existing varieties are part of each terroir, leaving little room for change.

"There's a real issue in the premier wine-growing regions that historical terroir is what makes great wine, and if you acknowledge in any way that you have climate change, you acknowledge that your terroir is changing," Wolkovich said. "So in many of those regions, there is not much of an appetite to talk about changing varieties."

But even if that appetite existed, Wolkovich said, researchers don't yet have enough data to say whether other varieties would be able to adapt to climate change.

"Part of what this paper sets up is the question of how much more do we need to know if we want to understand whether there is enough diversity in this crop to adapt wine regions to climate change in place," said Ignacio Morales-Castilla, a co-author of the study and a fellow at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University who investigates which grape varieties will adequately mature in what place under climate change. "Right now we know we have this diversity, but we have little information on how to use it. One of our other suggestions is for growers to start setting aside parts of vineyards to grow some other varieties to see which ones are working."

Wolkovich points out the wine regions of France where most of the world’s wine grapes come from. "With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

But even if researchers came to the table armed with information about grape diversity, Wolkovich said the industry — both in the traditional wine centers of Europe and around the world — still faces hurdles when it comes to adapting.

In Europe, she said, growers have the advantage of tremendous diversity. They have a wide variety of grapes to choose from, research repositories such as INRA's Domaine de Vassal that study this diversity, and expertise in how to grow the varieties. Yet strict labeling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of this diversity.

For example, just three varieties of grapes can be labeled Champagne, or four Burgundy. Similar restrictions have been enacted in many European regions, forcing growers to focus on a handful of varieties.

"The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change," Wolkovich said. "So there's this big pool of knowledge, and massive diversity. Growers have maintained an amazing amount of genetic and climactic response diversity … but if they changed those laws in any way in relation to climate change, that's acknowledging that the terroir of the region is changing, and many growers don't want to do that."

New World winegrowers, meanwhile, must grapple with the opposite problem: While there are few, if any, restrictions on which varieties may be grown in a given region, growers have little experience with the diverse — and potentially more adaptable — varieties found in Europe.

Just 12 varieties account for more than 80 percent of the grapes grown in Australian vineyards, Wolkovich said. More than 75 percent of all the grapes grown in China are Cabernet Sauvignon. The chief reason for that has to do with consumers.

"They have all the freedom in the world to import new varieties and think about how to make great wines from a grape variety you've never heard of, but they're not doing it because the consumer hasn't heard of it," Wolkovich said.

"In Europe, people do blend wines … but in the New World, we've gotten really focused on specific varieties: 'I want a bottle of Pinot Noir,' or 'I want a bottle of Cabernet.' We've been taught to recognize the varieties we think we like. People buy Pinot even though it can taste totally different depending on where it's grown. It might taste absolutely awful from certain regions, but if you think you like Pinot, you're only buying that."

As Wolkovich sees it, wine producers now face a choice: proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering from climate change.

"With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail. That's my expectation," she said. "The solution we're offering is: How do you start thinking of varietal diversity? Maybe the grapes grown widely today were the ones that are easiest to grow and tasted the best in historical climates, but I think we're missing a lot of great grapes better suited for the future."

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

New book explores the impact of geography on politics, psychology, behavior

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 10:00 AM PST

Understanding geography is fundamental to understanding the world, says Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government and a specialist in American politics. People often classify places or neighborhoods simply by who lives in them, he says, and build their allegiances by asking, "Are they one of us?"

In his new book "The Space Between Us," Enos discusses the strong influence of social geography on psychology, behavior, and politics, and explains how an "us versus them" mentality can be tightly connected to a "here versus there" paradigm of place. The Gazette interviewed Enos about his book and talked about what people might do to overcome the power of geography on the mind in order to increase inclusion in American cities, many of which are increasingly segregated through gentrification.

GAZETTE: One of the main arguments of your book is that geography affects people's behavior and their politics. Can you explain what social geography is and how it works?

ENOS: Social geography is the location of groups of people on the Earth's surface. It's a way to organize our world and is an important part of how we understand the world because it affects the way we perceive groups of people, how we arrange them in our minds, whether we think those groups are similar to each other or different from each other. A very prominent example that shows how social geography affects the way people vote involves how white Americans in 2008 and 2012 had to decide whether they would vote for a black man for president. I argue that one way to explain how they vote is by the influence of social geography, because they'd say, "If I'm a white person, do black people live near me?" If the answer was no, in their minds they may have subconsciously assumed that black people were different from them, and that that black man was not representative of them.

GAZETTE: You did an experiment in Boston where you found that people's attitudes toward immigration change when you change social geography. Can you tell us more about the experiment? What were you trying to prove?

ENOS: What I tried to do was change social geography and see how that changed people's behaviors. We sent two Spanish-speakers to Grafton and other places that are very white and asked them to stand in randomly selected train stations and speak Spanish for a few minutes every day. What we wanted to know was how people reacted to a change in social geography, and whether that affected the way they thought about politics. We surveyed people waiting for the train, who were largely upper class, liberal, and white, before and after the experiment, about their politics and attitudes on immigration. What we found was that people who were exposed to these two Spanish-speakers — who weren't doing anything unusual, just speaking Spanish, spending a few minutes on the train station every day — changed their attitudes toward immigration. They became sharply exclusionary, and they said they wanted to keep immigrants out of the country. The experiment was completely random, nothing else changed, and it was the mere presence of these other people, this change in social geography, that changed their attitudes about politics.

GAZETTE: Did this finding surprise you?

ENOS: In some ways, I was shocked. One of the things it teaches us, and this is one of the arguments I make in the book, is that these tendencies are deeply embedded in our psychology, and that the psychological space between us increases when the geographic space between us decreases. Being residents of Massachusetts, we tend to think that anti-immigrant attitude or xenophobia is something we don't do in this part of the country. This is not true. Anybody can be subject to these types of behaviors, and I think that is an important lesson because what it shows us is that if we want to have a harmonious society as the country continues to diversify, even places like Massachusetts need to work at it. We need to make sure we take steps as more immigrants come into a place like Massachusetts to make sure that people can get along.

GAZETTE: What are those steps? What can policymakers do?

ENOS: One point I make is that we, policymakers and the general public, don't think about social geography when we think about integration. We actually think about integration in terms of our institutions, maybe in our schools, or sometimes in very elite institutions like universities or in certain businesses that hire a very diverse group of people. But that doesn't touch a large segment of the population. And even if we integrate schools, because of the grasp that social geography has in our minds, if we look across our cities, and people still live in separate parts of the city, that's going to affect how well they can relate to each other and whether they come together politically. I think that what policymakers really need to focus on is how we can build cities that are inclusive, where we not only share public spaces — which is important too — like parks and museums, but also that we share residential space. That's a real challenge because increasingly certain parts of cities are affordable to only one type of person, and we can see this especially in places like Boston that are becoming more and more expensive. Only the wealthy, who are often a certain racial group, can live in certain parts of Boston or Cambridge. Cambridge in some ways is becoming less diverse, and one of the areas where policymakers have a big role is in whether or not they can do things about building affordable housing for a larger segment of the population, which can lead to a breakdown of segregation. Having integrated cities, not segregated cities, is an important thing for the future.

GAZETTE: You have lived in Chicago, where you worked as a high school teacher on the South Side. Between Boston and Chicago, which one is more segregated?

ENOS: Both are very segregated. Chicago by many measures is a more segregated city than Boston. But at some point cities reach a point of segregation where those distinctions become somewhat unimportant. If you ask a white person in Boston, for example, if he or she knows where to find Latinos or African-Americans, he or she can tell you easily. You see the same thing in Chicago. People know what side of the city is theirs and what side of the city belongs to another group. That's a phenomenon in a lot of big cities all across the United States, and that's the social geography I'm looking at. You don't have to live in a place like Boston for very long to know that that affects our politics and that affects how we think about other people.

GAZETTE: Big cities across the United States are changing with gentrification. What's the overall impact of gentrification on social geography?

ENOS: The danger of gentrification is that it can resegregate our cities. In some ways, our society has made a long, slow progress toward breaking down segregation from its height 50 years ago, and there is a real fear that, as cities gentrify, we will essentially revert to the segregation we had once upon a time. Segregation once was a phenomenon where you had people of color living in the inner cities and white people living in the suburbs, and that may reverse with gentrification, where you have poor people of color being moved out of the cities and white people living in the cities. And that can really lead to a problem that may be even worse than the previous problem, because people in the suburbs are a lot easier to forget. People go to the cities to work and to take part in institutions like sporting events, shopping, etc., and don't want to go to the suburbs, so we can imagine a pattern of reverse segregation, as you may call it, that may happen because of gentrification.

GAZETTE: In your book, you also analyze Phoenix and Tucson, two cities that have dealt with immigration but have different attitudes toward immigrants. Can you explain the role of social geography in the different outcomes? Why is Phoenix more against immigrants, and Tucson largely in favor?

ENOS: One of the key factors is the level of integration, whether people are segregated or integrated across space. In Arizona, 30 percent of the population is Hispanic. In Tucson, you have people who have largely lived together for generations, Anglos and Hispanics, in a more integrated way. In Phoenix, people live in the same metro area, but Anglos and Hispanics are very divided from each other, and the presence of groups that are large and segregated is the worst possible situation for social geography. That is what leads people to think that those groups are very separate and have nothing in common, and that ultimately affects their political behavior in a way that makes them confrontational and at odds with each other. In my book, I try to imagine a scenario where the rest of Arizona would be more like Tucson, where these groups, over generations, have learned to live together, so that, in this scenario, the 30 percent Hispanic population might not matter to Anglos that much. But currently that's not the way Phoenix is, and you see that reflected in Phoenix politics — with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had all these viciously anti-immigrant policies and had the support of the Anglo population in Phoenix. I argue that a big part of this is enabled by segregation.

GAZETTE: You said that the outcome of the 2016 presidential election can be explained by social geography and that Donald Trump's rhetoric shows the powerful influence of social geography. Can you elaborate?

ENOS: We know there were Democrats who voted for Trump. Some of the places where we saw this were the places where we saw the biggest changes in social geography. If you look across the United States and you look in counties that had experienced, in the last 15 years or so, rapid growth of the Latino population, we see that those were the places where voters, even Democratic voters, who previously voted for Barack Obama, switched to Trump. We can't know for sure, but my argument is that this looks a lot like the experiment in Boston. And perhaps what happened was that when that social geography changed, those voters became more threatened by those immigrants, and that affected the way they voted, causing them to vote for Trump. Trump became an attractive candidate to them because of the anti-migrant rhetoric he was promoting.

GAZETTE: What would you like readers to take away from your book?

ENOS: The main takeaway is that the way social geography, the way that we're arranged out in space in our cities and our counties, affects what we think about other people. And because it affects what we think about other people, it subsequently affects our politics and whether we can be a harmonious society.

We need to think about two things. One is the public policy for changing social geography and living in a more inclusive society, and the other involves our own personal behavior, whether we can reach across that social geography and have contact with people who are different from us and learn about those people, allowing us to overcome the power that social geography has over our minds.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now