“Who is the wine industry's Greta Thunberg?"
Before I got the chance to even think about the answer to this question that appeared on my Twitter stream, my friend, leading US wine data analyst Paul Mabray, responded, “Ironically someone of the opposite age: Miguel Torres.”
And of course, Mabray is right. Almost as soon as Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006, Torres began giving informed presentations on climate change to audiences across the globe. Demonstrating that he walks the walk as well as giving the talks, Torres describes the way his wine company is trying to reduce its carbon footprint – by burying its facilities underground and using solar energy, for example. But he also freely acknowledges the challenges confronting anyone trying to do the right thing.
And, to be fair, the wine industry has seen a number of initiatives that seek to address climate change. Pancho Campo ran a conference in 2008 that was addressed by Al Gore and, in 2018, Adrian Bridge of Taylor’s Port hosted a ‘Climate Change Leadership’ summit in Porto. In California, Jackson Family wines has made huge efforts to reduce its own footprint and to grow awareness among consumers and the local industry.
But there’s the problem. Conferences, initiatives, articles, scientific papers, books… There’s plenty of knowledge out there, but it’s disparate and often far from clear. Is it better for the environment for wine to be sold locally in bottle or shipped across the world in flexitanks? Are light glass bottles ‘better’ than PET if the latter is properly recycled? And how do either compare to Bag-in-Box or Tetra? And what about returnable bottles? How much energy can be saved in the winery, from fermentation temperature control to air conditioning?
Where can any small – or larger – winery go to find clear answers to these questions before, for example, building a new facility or investing in equipment? Would a French producer find the same information as one in Chile or China?
Leaders in this industry have so much to teach, but far too often they seem to prefer to hide their environmental efforts behind a bushel. I was dazzled by a presentation at a small conference showing some of the things France’s Castel is doing in this area, but disappointed to discover how few people knew about it—not even their neighbours and competitors had any idea.
So, here’s my proposal. What if the industry globally agreed to create and fund a properly curated information resource that would provide even the smallest wine business with immediate access to the latest information on every aspect of this all-important subject?
There is only so much that the Greta Thunbergs and Miguel Torres’s can do; it’s up to the rest of us collectively to build on the foundations they have laid.