The Wine Industry Needs to Lead in Battling Climate Change

Several weeks ago, I laid forth the following points, at the time I prefaced these four statements with the fact that I am not a climate scientist, nor do I play one on T.V. I am not even a voracious consumer of information concerning the changing of the planet. I do, however, like to think I occasionally pay attention to current events and, as such, I can assert these with a certain level of confidence:

  1. The climate is changing
  2. Man is the primary cause of the changes to the environment
  3. The scientific community is essentially unanimous in agreeing to the first two points
  4. The wine industry should be leading the charge to combat this growing crisis.

I assume that most people who are reading this have already seen or heard the first three points, which are usually presented together and, for the most part, in that order. Thus, for the sake of this article, I am accepting those as givens.

Now, not all readers will agree that numbers 1-3 are givens (despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary). They might sight the fact that over the history of the planet, the climate has changed countless times (they might even bring up dinosaurs). As far as I know, that is correct.

They might also bring up some talking points from the conservative playbook that this is all just a liberal hoax, fabricated to perpetuate one agenda or another. As far as I know, this is not correct. The reason I state this is precisely point number three above. Again, I am not a scientist–certainly not a climatologist–so I consume the data much like every other “average citizen.” When I have taken the time to read the data, it is more than compelling–it is terrifying.

For me (and hopefully for those reading), science is not an opinion. Sure, there are theories about what is going to happen and when, but whether or not those theories prove to be accurate or not has nothing to do with the facts of where we are now.

So why do I feel that the wine industry should lead the charge? Simple (at least in my mind). I have visited many wine regions, hundreds of wineries, and spoken to countless winemakers, growers, and winery officials. While the conversations with those individuals obviously centered on wine, many of them also touched on climate change or global warming in one way or another.

Just yesterday, here in Houston, I attended a tasting conducted by Krug Champagne, widely regarded as the pinnacle of producers in the region. The representative of the house, unprovoked, brought up climate change as a matter of fact. This stance is by far the norm, certainly not the exception.

I have yet to hear from any wine producer any suggestion that the climate is not changing nor that the planet is not warming. To a person, the discussion about the noticeable changes had nothing to do with politics, but rather the steps that they were taking to combat the climatic crisis.

Most of those conversations involve canopy management, water usage, or sustainability, issues about which I have little to no expertise. As an interested observer, however, there are certain aspects of wine production that puzzle me, items that seem like rather “low-hanging fruit”, changes that could immediately be made with seemingly no effect on wine quality.

At the top of my list, and is what has turned into my personal bailiwick, the big heavy bottle. I have spoken to numerous people (including a glass producer) and they all concur that the heavy bottles serve no purpose (with the notable exception of sparkling wines), that, at best, the heavy bottle is used to convey quality, to suggest that the wine inside is worthy of such elaborate packaging.

So to all of those producers out there that still think they need the big heavy bottle to hoodwink their customers into thinking it is a “premium” wine, I have a simple message: Hire better marketing folks and Get rid of the heavy bottles!

Here are three wines that I tasted this week that are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified. As I have mentioned several times in past posts, the SIP Certification process is mostly concerned about outputs, making sure that the practices of a winery are sustainable not only for the environment but also for the workers and the community. This is a different approach than, say, organic certification, which focuses on inputs (making sure that all treatments to a vineyard are organic–it does not address really much of anything else, e.g., assessing carbon footprint).

The SIP Certification process is not perfect (see the second wine below), but it is on the right path, for sure.

2016 Fiddlehead Cellars Grüner Veltliner Fiddlestix Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $28. You don’t see a whole lot of Grüner out there, particularly from Sta Rita Hills, but when I saw this wine from Fiddlehead, one of the more respected producers in the region, I had a feeling it would be memorable. I was right. This is apparently the current release (the website has the 2015 listed), which is a bit surprising, but hey, I wish more wineries would age more wines in house before release. A bit golden in the glass, much more color than I anticipated, that could be from the age (at least in part) and/or the fact that a portion of the wine was fermented in French oak (at least the 2015 was). A bit mineral, some glycerin, and honey, but not a ton of fruit on the nose. The palate, though, is quite tart and citrusy paired with an unctuous and rich mid-palate. The finish is lengthy and tasty. This is quite good–I love it when I am right. If you see her, please tell my wife that I was right, not that I love being right–she already knows that. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

2014 Oso Libre Mourvedre Bendición, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $56. 100% Mourvèdre. A 100% Mourvèdr?!? That gets a Whoa on its own. Quite fruity and rich with blackberry fruit, earth, and vanilla. The palate is simply delicious: rich and round with luscious fruit and wave after wave of flavor. While this is far from my preferred variety, this is gangbusters and I could drink this all day long.

If it were not for the B.A.B. that is. While this wine is considered SIP Certified, it is in a Big Ass Bottle (B.A.B) that is certainly not environmentally friendly, thus I question the winery’s commitment to sustainability. What a shame–the wine is Excellent, maybe more, but a hard pass due to the completely ridiculous bottle. (In this case, the vineyard is SIP Certified, but the winery isn’t–an odd loophole that I hope is being addressed). Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2016 Villa San-Juliette Chorum, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $30. 57% Petite Sirah, 29% Zinfandel, 7% Grenache, 5% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Syrah, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have been to Paso a few times, but I was not familiar with this winery, but after trying this wine, I might have to visit on my next trip to the region. While this might lie outside what I would consider my “wheelhouse” it is certainly delightful and well-made. Brooding in the glass with an abundance of dark fruit (as one would expect from a mostly PS and Zin blend), this is big, rich, and laden with power. If you are looking for subtle or lithe, move on, but if you want a wine to hold up to your Texas BBQ, this is what you need. Rich, unctuous, and fun, this is fantastic. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points. 



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grüner Veltliner, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Wine, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Wine Industry Needs to Lead in Battling Climate Change

  1. ncenvoyage says:

    Yes, anyone who works in any sort of agriculture (or in bicycle touring), anywhere in a temperate climate, has to face climate change as a daily influence on his activity now. There is no debate, because you have the evidence in front of you, all the time.


  2. LifeInAGlass says:

    In Oz, the big heavy bottle i def making a come back on the supermarket shelf – usually with wines that are on the exclusive side and where it’s mostly about the marketing and less about the juice. I’m optimistic and hope consumers wake up to these… can’t stand them. Apart from total uselessness, they are also not practical unless you drive an SUV in the city. But that speaks for itself.


  3. rieslingzeitung says:

    I enjoyed this and agree wholeheartedly. I think an added layer of responsibility falls on winegrowers because wine is a luxury good and not simply an agricultural product.

    Having a keen interest in sustainability in viticulture, I’ve just moved from Australia to New Zealand and plan to delve into this study as much as I can. In general I’ve been impressed by the widely adopted attitude to sustainability amongst winegrowers in New Zealand.

    Australia’s comparatively advantageous position in a lucrative global market for bulk wine means that regions like the Riverland and Riverina (probably comparable to the Central Valley of California) are probably going to be stuck in a more industrial production cycle for a long time. Irrigation (and therefor irresponsible water use – particularly in drought conditions) is essential… as is machine harvesting and regular chemical inputs in the vineyard.

    But things are changing. A number of growers (particularly in South Australia) are turning to varieties like Fiano and Nero d’avila that naturally grow comfortable in a hot, sunny and dry climate. These wines are affordable and are generally well received by thirsty Australians.

    Thanks for your reflections on this subject. Gotta spread the word!

    And yes… the B.A.B. has to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds so delightful. I fancy a spa break soon. Thinking of Soho Farmhouse but this sounds like one I should be adding to my list too.Organic wine


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