Winemakers face climate change with dread

With the Copenhagen climate change summit looming, the world of wine convened on Spain's Rioja region for a conference in which global warming emerged as the industry's top concern.

"All over the world, alcohol levels are going up," said British wine critic Jancis Robinson at the WineFuture conference, citing just one problem producers are facing as a result of rising temperatures.

"Champagne alcohol levels are becoming embarrassingly high," she added, meaning that the heat which is raising the alcohol content changes both the texture and personality of a wine.

Robinson said there were some "benevolent effects" of climate change - the slight increases in temperature currently benefiting certain wine-producing regions like California or Germany, as well as more ominous global implications.

"Even in England, the grapes are ripening more," she said. "Someone even planted a vineyard in Norway. Can you believe that?"

Less benevolent effects, added Robinson, are being seen in warmer wine producing regions around the world such as Australia where water shortages are contributing to the demise of many wineries.

"Farmers in Spain don't have nearly enough water," she continued, "Spanish wine has always been pretty dry and concentrated, but the last few vintages have reached a crisis point."

In the short to medium term, however, what might drive producers to go green has nothing to do with conscience or desire to save the world. For many, it's about money and marketing.

"I want to find new markets, particularly for export. I want to be the first winemaker who eliminates direct CO2 emissions. Nobody does that," said Manuel Garcia of Rioja's Bodegas Regalia de Ollauri. "As a commercial argument, it's very important."

Potentially, there's also money to be saved by going green. At Garcia's new vineyard, he installed a geothermal system that takes advantage of the constant temperature underground to cool his cellars in the summertime and heat them in the winter, a game changer for wineries whose power bills are often referred to as "astronomical."

"My summertime cooling no cuesta nada (doesn't cost anything)," he said, making a "0" in the air with his thumb and index finger. "We paid 250,000 euros to install the system, but we'll recuperate our investment in four or five years."

"You might not get vineyard owners to want to save the Earth, but they'll want to save money," concludes Garcia.

Winemakers are also being encouraged to rethink how they ship their wines and how they make their bottles.

At the WineFuture conference last week, speaker Nicola Jenkins, drinks category expert for the Britain.-based environmental agency WRAP cited a Chilean winery which used a "lightweighting" process on its bottles, reducing their weight from 485g to 425g and encouraging others to ship overseas in bulk using giant vats known as 'flexitanks'- both processes that result in CO2 emissions reductions and shipping cost savings.

But it's still a slow process getting winemakers on board.

"People go to a climate conference and get all excited then go back to their company and say, 'Let's buy solar panels!' and their boss says 'What?!?!'" said Miguel Torres, president of Bodegas Miguel Torres.

Yet Torres, who heads up a generations-old wine company has become something of an Al Gore for the wine industry, travelling the world with a climate change PowerPoint presentation, showing what his company is doing to go green and why he's trying to lead by example.

At the new Torres winery in the Rioja town of Labastida, the facility is built into the earth, has a fleet of electric vehicles and special water collecting reservoirs.

"We won't be able to make the same quality of wines if we don't do anything," he said, addressing the particular sensitivity of grapes and the winemaking process to temperature changes other crops could endure.

Some producers who want to continue to produce the wines they've made historically are adapting by simply changing physical location.

"You can work with latitude or altitude, or switch grapes," he said. The latter has particular consequences in Europe, as a switch to grapes that are better adapted to higher temperatures could signal the end of the appellation system as a whole. "It's going to change the map."

"In 10, 15 or 20 years there's going to be a frightening change with consequences," he concluded. "If temperatures in Europe go up by five degrees, we won't be able to grow grapes and I don't want to have to explain to my grandchildren why we did nothing."

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to full-blooded vitriol, no one on social media attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable