Interview with Jim Mau, Biologist and Producer for 2 Degrees Above Normal, a documentary film about how climate change is affecting the cultivation, economics and culture of wine on a global scale.
Jim Mau Bio, from 2DAN Website:
Jim is a former principle and executive in two biotechnology companies. His responsibilities there encompassed R&D of a product line for the diagnosis of enteric pathogens, manufacturing process development and validation, Quality Control and oversight of regulatory matters. Jim is a scientist who in his studies of disease ecology has witnessed the development of global climate change over the past twenty-five years by its effects upon the biology and ecology of disease causing organisms. He has a unique understanding of the consequences global climate change can have on the health of entire ecological systems and the potential devastating affect climate change presents for human health worldwide.
NW – Good Morning Jim. How’s the climate in southern Oregon?
2DAN – Well, you know Brian, it’s kind of like in Sonoma, changing.
NW – So what can you tell us about global warming and why do you feel it is so important in regards to wine?
2DAN – Well Brian, let me answer that question with a question, if I may. Do you like wine, Brian?
NW – Well, yeah!
2DAN – Do you have any wines you like in particular?
NW – Of Course.
2DAN – And why would you like any particular wine over another?
NW – Well certain wines have characteristics that make those wines exceptional to my particular tastes, to my palate and to my nose. Many have subtle characteristics that just appeal to me. It’s, you know, a Terroir thing, I guess.
2DAN – Exactly Brian. You love the wines you do because they have a particular character that appeals to you and that particularity comes not just from the wine making process but mostly from the soils and climate where those wine grapes are cultivated. And to put it quite simply, if you change the character of the soil or you mess up the climate you mess up the wine. And that is the problem, Brian. Because of naturally occurring affects of climate change and compounding human activities, climates around the world where grapes are grown is changing and with that comes changes in not only the traditional viticulture of a region but also in the economics and even the social and cultural aspects of that region.
We also know that wine grapes are a sort of ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to agricultural crops. Wine grapes tend to grow on the very margins of cultivatable land and if they begin to fail then you can rest assured that everything else is at an even greater risk of failure. We also know that an increase in night-time temperatures of just 2 degrees Celsius can ruin a wine grape growing region because the wine grapes just won’t handle the change. And, thus the title of our film: 2 Degrees Above Normal, a documentary film about how climate change is affecting the cultivation, economics and culture of wine on a global scale.
So, by using a commodity that so many can relate to – wine, our desire is to educate wine growers, wine makers, wine distributors and retailer as well as wine enthusiasts to the revealing sciences of climate change and its affects on the world of wine.
As you know Brian, there is a huge historical and cultural identity associated with wine producing regions. A region known for a superb varietal might need to shift to another kind of grape, changing a cultural identity that has developed over centuries. In addition, changes in cultural identity for a region could be followed by shifts in the economics of that region and the pricing and availability of classic varietals worldwide. While it is clear that improvements in grape growing and wine-making technology have produced better wines, climate will always be the wild card in determining year to year variations in quality.
Our film will seek to examine the affects of global climate change on viticulture and wine. How climate change is affecting the quality, culture and availability of wines enjoyed today and in the future and how climate change is altering the economics of wine regionally and globally. The film is based primarily on the research of Dr. Gregory Jones, Climatologist, at Southern Oregon University and others.
2 Degrees Above Normal will convey the affects of climate change on viticulture and wine production over the past 150 years predicting similar affects of climate change on wine regions worldwide over the next 50 – 100 years. What is the delicate connection between wine production and climate that makes it such a “canary in the coal mine” for studying climate change? Where and how have the changes happened, what is predicted to happen in the future and possible mitigating solutions will be examined. Affects on both the wine industry and regional cultures will be explored.
NW – So, Jim, what do we do?
“The next time you sip your favorite wine, maybe think about it a little differently. The message is clear: Wine is a precious product of nature, and its future is threatened. In your glass of pleasure there is also a microcosm of our shared environmental concerns, concerns that can no longer be ignored, no longer be denied. Global warming and wine: an inconvenient truth that has yet to resonate with much of the global wine industry, much less wine consumers.”
And you can see this in so many of the magazine articles and Twitter tweets you read. Most are about how great a wine is but I have to wonder how many consumers really relate to what the ‘terroir’ and climate are from where those wines originated and do they understand what is going on today climate wise in regards to those wines they are enjoying. Again, this is why we need to produce our film on the affects of climate change and wine. Educating the wine consuming public as well as the industry is paramount to the future of wines.
I also love the tagline: ‘Wine is climate change you can taste.’
NW – Yes, that is an intriguing tagline. Certainly sums it up doesn’t it. Is there anything else you would like to add?
2DAN – Yes. I would like to refer your readers to an article published in August of 2007 in Wines & Vines when Pancho Campo, MW from the Wine Academy of Spain addressed the Sonoma wine community regarding the affects of climate change on wine. It provides a good opportunity for reflection of things spoken three years back, where we are today and where we need to be tomorrow:
Coping with Climate Change: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=49616&htitle=Coping%20with%20Climate%20Change
NW – Well thank you Jim for your comments and for your concerns regarding the affect of climate change and the compounding affects of human activities on wine. Is the anything that my readers can do to help move this issue and your documentary film along?
2DAN – Certainly, Brian. For one they can read our blog at: http://2degreesabovenormal.com/Terroir/. I try to keep our readers posted on the most recent research, events and articles regarding climate change and wine. And, as this film is a project under a California 501 c 3 non-profit corporation**, contributions and sponsorships are what is ultimately going to decide if it gets made and how well. Donations to the film can be made directly on our blog via a PayPay Donate button.
We also believe that corporate sponsorship of this film offers an excellent international marketing opportunity to numerous areas of the wine industry, especially now. Though wines on the market today are excellent, there is a glut and many brands are struggling. The world of wine is changing and that change is being driven by an increase in consumer demand worldwide in emerging markets like China, Russia, India and South America. Sponsorship of this film offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a brand’ environmental commitment with ‘being Green’ on the mind of consumers these days as they consider purchase of product.
Should any of your readers or industry contacts be seeking such marketing opportunities, we would be happy to speak with them. We can be reached either through our Contact Us page on our blog or they can email me directly at email@example.com.
NW – Excellent Jim. Thank you.
2DAN – Thank you, Brian.
You can keep up with 2DegreesAboveNormal on and . Help support their cause by stopping by and spreading the word, or making a donation (on their website)! Special Thanks to Jim Mau for getting this post together.