Greg Jones on inventing the field of wine-climate interactions

Greg Jones is one of the foremost authorities on wine – climate interactions. I started hearing about  Greg some time in the late 1990s, when Rama Nemani, one of my friends from the University of Montana, went out to NASA Ames for a year. Rama got interested in remote sensing of vineyards and then climate-wine interactions. Somehow we all started talking, and a few years later this led to a paper in Climate Research. Greg and I continued to work together off and on for years, including a feature in Nature Geoscience soon after I started at Nature.

As tends to happen when careers diverge, Greg and I were in touch only occasionally as the years went by, so I was keen to have him on the show, both to catch up and to ask the questions you don’t tend to ask during normal scientific interactions.

A lot of the scientists I’ve interviewed have had unusual backgrounds, but Greg’s is the most startling so far. He didn’t finish high school on the first attempt, going instead into careers in cooking and owning golfing supply shops. Only the economic crash of 1987 got him into science.

Early on, Greg and his advisor at the University of Virginia, Bob Davis, realized that there was an almost completely unexplored niche in wine-climate interactions. Greg started in Bordeaux, for his PhD, and continues uninterrupted today. His career spans global climate change, site selection in his home area of southern Oregon, and collaborations around the globe and in the family winery.

Greg and I talk about most everything … cooking, cold calling the French wine industry, terroir, and macro- and micro-climate influences on grape production. I love wines with strong minerality, and it turns out this flavor might simply arise from fermentation technique, not anything in the soil. Lots of bits like that in the chat.

It goes to show, it’s never to late to finish high school, or to invent your own field of science.

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