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How do We Teach Old World Winemakers New Tricks?

In Al Gore’s speech to us in the final hour of the II International Conference on Climate and Wine, he was asked by an attendee of the conference if children were being adequately educated on the topic of climate change. His response was simply that no, they weren’t, but that we needed to take great caution when we do choose to educate them on the inevitable, considering that it is they who will see the most dire consequences of this phenomenon. And if, and when, we do decide to step up to the plate and present them with the facts of figures of tomorrow’s changing world, we must do so with great caution so that they may not look upon the future with fear and hesitation, but rather hope. And when they look back to the past at their parent’s efforts during a time of change and instability, they will do so with pride that their ancestors stood up against great odds to make the hard choices necessary to permit change towards a greener, healthier, more balanced, existence: an existence that changed its focus from consumption to preservation, from greed to sharing and from fear to openness.

As an educator, I took these ideas to heart, because I still feel that the majority of people look at this issue as if it is too big, too large and too ominous to tackle. And because CO2 is odorless and invisible, we can’t quantifiably measure our contribution against it. If we had a little dial mounted in our kitchen tracking each time we chose not to use our car, chose energy efficient appliances or recycled our waste, maybe this would make a difference, but for now, many feel as if they cannot do anything to significantly change the course of our future. However, by setting a good example to our children of things we can do in our little universe to stop it, maybe, just maybe, they too will make the same choices.

Thankfully, we had Al Gore, even it was by satellite, sniffling and coughing on a 20 foot high screen (poor guy had a small head cold), to give us the solid tools to prepare for tomorrow. Because if we didn’t have his beautifully written speech, I would have left the conference a little put off that we weren’t provided the solid strategies to help winemakers, wine marketers, wine consumers and wine executives support conservation. And although I am forever indebted to both Pancho Campo and his fantastic speakers for even taking the time, the effort and their resources to make this conference a reality, I feel that prevention needs to be addressed. I feel as if we still are cowering in the corner accepting that CO2 will continually increase, while our everyday existence will forever change, growing more uncomfortable with each passing day.

What we were provided were enough stats and statistics from almost every speaker to convince us that beyond a doubt, winemaking will change in the following ways:

â€Â¢ Winters will become warmer
â€Â¢ Summers will become hotter
â€Â¢ Spring frosts will decrease
â€Â¢ There will be a higher frequency of heat waves
â€Â¢ Budbreak, flowering, veraison and harvest has already begun earlier (in many cases, a month earlier).
â€Â¢ An increase in water usage
â€Â¢ A decrease in precipitation in spring and summer months
â€Â¢ Present varieties will be less suited from a wine style and quality aspect
â€Â¢ Vine pests and diseases will become a greater threat
â€Â¢ The northern hemisphere will be more affected than the southern hemisphere, as a result of having more landmass
â€Â¢ Wines will be more alcoholic, less acidic, less aromatic and with less color and tannin; hence, you will see more jammy red wines than white wines (especially less sparkling wines) overall

Once these facts were firmly implanted in our minds, and we all nodded our heads in both fear and acceptance that the future is looking rather grim, we were given hope that because vines are rather flexible, able to adapt quickly, so can we. We can:

â€Â¢ Research new varieties and rootstocks that will be better adapted to hot, dry weather.
â€Â¢ Alter the direction of the vineyards, the density of the leaf canopy and the height of the trellises
â€Â¢ Look at property farther north or in higher altitudes
â€Â¢ Be flexible to alter our historic “brand” of terrior into something new

Sure, I can accept that climate change, to a certain amount, is inevitable; hence, the discussion of adaptation is absolutely required. Yes, we will have to alter our perspectives, and yes, we will have to adjust our businesses in order to succeed in the new world. What frustrates me still, is that I wanted wineries who were not green to have the solid tools and resources to act NOW. Not tomorrow, and not next week, but now. I wanted the wine industry to walk away from the conference with practical tools that can be implemented at a very low cost. Maybe I’m wrong here, but my fear was that many people within the wine industry feared that sustainable winemaking and conservation is a considerable cost, which can only be afforded by large wineries like Bodegas Torres and Banrock Station. But if we’re lucky, there will be a handful that will go back to their vineyards, look out upon the land and say, “what are a few things I heard at the conference that I can feasibly do right now to make a difference in my community? Can I..

â€Â¢ Use ground cover effectively in the winter months to absorb more CO2?
â€Â¢ Capture, recycle and conserve rainwater?
â€Â¢ Use effective irrigation techniques?
â€Â¢ Effectively mulch the soil and plant mid row crops in order to absorb more water?
â€Â¢ Employ an ecologist to aid in future research and projects?
â€Â¢ Recycle packaging and reduce wine transportation?
â€Â¢ Use cleaner and more reusable forms of energy?
â€Â¢ Sponsor eco-friendly projects?
â€Â¢ Use hybrid tractors and electric company cars?
â€Â¢ Use solar panels and wind energy for electricity?

Although wineries contribute only 1% of the total carbon output, I have to believe and trust that they still want to make a difference.

Pancho made an interesting analogy in one of his speeches at the conference when he placed this equation on the overhead screen: old habits + technology = altered consequences. The screen went blank and up came a picture of a sword. Again, the screen went black, and suddenly we were facing a plus sign next to a large silver gun. Blank. An equal sign. Blank. Boooooom, an atomic bomb. If I understood the equation correctly, he was trying to tell me that if we simply use technology to solve our problems, without changing our way of thinking, we will continually be adding fuel to the fire. Hence, adapting to climate change through the convenience of technology will only get us so far, if we aren’t willing to change our attitudes and our decisions. My hope is that we, as an industry, will take the necessary steps to change our perceptions and our behaviors, even if it feels small and insignificant in the grander scheme.

We’ve included Pancho Campo’s speech on the “Impact of climate change on the industry to give you a idea of how and why we should alter our attitudes. Enjoy!

Cheers,
Gabriella

Video content from the conference was produced by Richard Gillespie please contact us if you are interested in hiring Richard for your next project.

  • RichardA

    The skeptic returns. :) I was not at the conference so I don't know what stats you heard from the panelists. But my own readings into the matter certainly do not convince me beyond a doubt that all of the changes you mention will definitely occur. In fact, recent data seems to indicate that some of what has been said may be fear mongering to a point. Did any of the conference participants address the current winter? Most places in the southern hemisphere just had one of their coldest winters on record. From South America to China, all reported record cold temps and lots of snow. I certainly know that New England has had a very cold winter this year. Canada reports that they may have their coldest winter in 15 years. Many other places, all around the world, have reported record cold temps or snowfall this year. It has snowed in Baghad this year, when most cannot remember the last time it snowed there. Britain could have their coldest Feb. in at least 10 years. Where are those warmer winters? What about those ice caps melting? The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that almost all of the allegedly "lost" ice has returned. Ice levels which shrank, from 5M square miles in January 2007 to 1.5M square miles in October, have almost returned to their original levels. Sure, I agree that we would benefit from utilizing more conservation measures. And wineries that become greener would be good for all. I generally support those measures. But, I remain skeptical about all the doom and gloom that some global warming advocates try to push. Global warming is not a cut and dried issue. There are legitimate questions involved in many aspects of the global warming debate. There is evidence out there that refutes some of the alleged claims of the global warming advocates. Yet those who dare question are sometimes marginalized and ignored. We can never stop questioning.

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    The skeptic returns. :)

    I was not at the conference so I don’t know what stats you heard from the panelists. But my own readings into the matter certainly do not convince me beyond a doubt that all of the changes you mention will definitely occur. In fact, recent data seems to indicate that some of what has been said may be fear mongering to a point.

    Did any of the conference participants address the current winter? Most places in the southern hemisphere just had one of their coldest winters on record. From South America to China, all reported record cold temps and lots of snow. I certainly know that New England has had a very cold winter this year. Canada reports that they may have their coldest winter in 15 years. Many other places, all around the world, have reported record cold temps or snowfall this year. It has snowed in Baghad this year, when most cannot remember the last time it snowed there. Britain could have their coldest Feb. in at least 10 years. Where are those warmer winters?

    What about those ice caps melting? The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that almost all of the allegedly “lost” ice has returned. Ice levels which shrank, from 5M square miles in January 2007 to 1.5M square miles in October, have almost returned to their original levels.

    Sure, I agree that we would benefit from utilizing more conservation measures. And wineries that become greener would be good for all. I generally support those measures.

    But, I remain skeptical about all the doom and gloom that some global warming advocates try to push. Global warming is not a cut and dried issue. There are legitimate questions involved in many aspects of the global warming debate. There is evidence out there that refutes some of the alleged claims of the global warming advocates. Yet those who dare question are sometimes marginalized and ignored. We can never stop questioning.

  • Whineman

    Hello Richard, Your right in that projections are projections and may or may not occur. However, as one who has analyzed wine region climates, grapevine phenology, grape composition, and wine quality parameters in virtually all growing regions over the globe, I must say that this industry has clearly seen significant changes over the last 50-100 years. Wine region climates have warmed by ~2 degC over the last 50 years alone, with longer growing seasons ( 90 days in Napa alone), and more extreme occurrences (frost, heavy rain events, etc). In addition, studies that I have done on grapevine phenology show that the vine has responded to the changes in climate with earlier events (5-20 days depending on variety and location) and a much more rapid growth cycle between events. As a result there has been clear changes in fruit composition that have led to part of the influence on wine composition changes (the rest is due the wine rating economic effect). As a result of both climate and grapevine phenology changes some places have benefited and are more consistent in terms of production and quality (cooler regions mostly that struggled previously), while other regions have suffered with out of balance ripening profiles and clear climate-maturity issues. All this says that changes have occurred that are not all beneficial and have required some regions/growers to have already adapted to the changes. While there are still many uncertainties in future climate projections, our ability to put a range on what is most likely to occur has gotten better. However, I would never count out variability in earth-atmosphere system. You mentioned the recent cool years in some locations (this has not occurred everywhere, otherwise why would 2007 have been the 5th warmest year on record globally). From the data I can tell you that, yes this is true … for example the western US wine regions had a cool 2007 vintage. But in every case of a warming or cooling period there are always years above or below the trend. During the Little Ice Age there were years that were much warmer than the average, however they were outliers and not the norm. The cool 2007 vintage in the western US was below both the trend and mean of the last 15-20 years, but significantly above the mean of the last 40-60 years. I also agree with your statement that climate change is "not a cut and dried issue" and as any climatologist would say that we don't know everything and that only time will tell if our best estimates are correct or not. I also agree with the issue of "doom and gloom" which I am not a proponent of at all. However, as a climate scientist I try to do nothing but speak the truth of physics and data that I know and place a range of potential issues on what can likely be expected. Unfortunately, the political arena and the media create much of the nastiness that comes out of what should truly be a rich debate on something very important.

  • Whineman

    Hello Richard,

    Your right in that projections are projections and may or may not occur. However, as one who has analyzed wine region climates, grapevine phenology, grape composition, and wine quality parameters in virtually all growing regions over the globe, I must say that this industry has clearly seen significant changes over the last 50-100 years. Wine region climates have warmed by ~2 degC over the last 50 years alone, with longer growing seasons (+90 days in Napa alone), and more extreme occurrences (frost, heavy rain events, etc). In addition, studies that I have done on grapevine phenology show that the vine has responded to the changes in climate with earlier events (5-20 days depending on variety and location) and a much more rapid growth cycle between events. As a result there has been clear changes in fruit composition that have led to part of the influence on wine composition changes (the rest is due the wine rating economic effect). As a result of both climate and grapevine phenology changes some places have benefited and are more consistent in terms of production and quality (cooler regions mostly that struggled previously), while other regions have suffered with out of balance ripening profiles and clear climate-maturity issues. All this says that changes have occurred that are not all beneficial and have required some regions/growers to have already adapted to the changes.

    While there are still many uncertainties in future climate projections, our ability to put a range on what is most likely to occur has gotten better. However, I would never count out variability in earth-atmosphere system. You mentioned the recent cool years in some locations (this has not occurred everywhere, otherwise why would 2007 have been the 5th warmest year on record globally). From the data I can tell you that, yes this is true … for example the western US wine regions had a cool 2007 vintage. But in every case of a warming or cooling period there are always years above or below the trend. During the Little Ice Age there were years that were much warmer than the average, however they were outliers and not the norm. The cool 2007 vintage in the western US was below both the trend and mean of the last 15-20 years, but significantly above the mean of the last 40-60 years.

    I also agree with your statement that climate change is “not a cut and dried issue” and as any climatologist would say that we don’t know everything and that only time will tell if our best estimates are correct or not. I also agree with the issue of “doom and gloom” which I am not a proponent of at all. However, as a climate scientist I try to do nothing but speak the truth of physics and data that I know and place a range of potential issues on what can likely be expected. Unfortunately, the political arena and the media create much of the nastiness that comes out of what should truly be a rich debate on something very important.

  • Gabriella

    After Richard left his comment on our site, I felt like I needed to do the responsible thing and bring in an expert who can better explain the current changes in climate better than myself. Hence, I requested aid from a scientist who has not only been credited for researching and discovering much of these climate changes and their effect on viticulture, but who was also a passionate speaker at the conference. Taken from Dr. Gregory Jones website: "Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of how climate variability and change impact natural ecosystems and agriculture. He holds a BA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in the Atmospheric Sciences." <a href="<a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br />”><a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br /> I wanted to personally thank Dr. Jones for taking the time to respond. To be honest, we were disappointed that we couldn't get as many interviews as we wanted to at the conference, and Dr. Jones is one we sorely regret not getting on tape. And although Catavino is new to this topic, we've found ourselves wanting to hear more from several experts in the field to both educate us and to offer you more information on a very important topic. Obviously Gregory and his partner in crime, Dr. Hans Schultz from Germany, are two that we hope will allow us to interview them on their work in the future. Thank you Gregory for taking the time to respond, and hopefully, this will be the first of many times we can gain from your expertise on our site.

  • Gabriella

    After Richard left his comment on our site, I felt like I needed to do the responsible thing and bring in an expert who can better explain the current changes in climate better than myself. Hence, I requested aid from a scientist who has not only been credited for researching and discovering much of these climate changes and their effect on viticulture, but who was also a passionate speaker at the conference. Taken from Dr. Gregory Jones website: "Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of how climate variability and change impact natural ecosystems and agriculture. He holds a BA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in the Atmospheric Sciences." <a href="<a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br />”><a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br /> I wanted to personally thank Dr. Jones for taking the time to respond. To be honest, we were disappointed that we couldn't get as many interviews as we wanted to at the conference, and Dr. Jones is one we sorely regret not getting on tape. And although Catavino is new to this topic, we've found ourselves wanting to hear more from several experts in the field to both educate us and to offer you more information on a very important topic. Obviously Gregory and his partner in crime, Dr. Hans Schultz from Germany, are two that we hope will allow us to interview them on their work in the future. Thank you Gregory for taking the time to respond, and hopefully, this will be the first of many times we can gain from your expertise on our site.

  • Gabriella

    After Richard left his comment on our site, I felt like I needed to do the responsible thing and bring in an expert who can better explain the current changes in climate better than myself. Hence, I requested aid from a scientist who has not only been credited for researching and discovering much of these climate changes and their effect on viticulture, but who was also a passionate speaker at the conference. Taken from Dr. Gregory Jones website: "Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of how climate variability and change impact natural ecosystems and agriculture. He holds a BA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in the Atmospheric Sciences." <a href="<a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br />”><a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br /> I wanted to personally thank Dr. Jones for taking the time to respond. To be honest, we were disappointed that we couldn't get as many interviews as we wanted to at the conference, and Dr. Jones is one we sorely regret not getting on tape. And although Catavino is new to this topic, we've found ourselves wanting to hear more from several experts in the field to both educate us and to offer you more information on a very important topic. Obviously Gregory and his partner in crime, Dr. Hans Schultz from Germany, are two that we hope will allow us to interview them on their work in the future. Thank you Gregory for taking the time to respond, and hopefully, this will be the first of many times we can gain from your expertise on our site.

  • Gabriella

    After Richard left his comment on our site, I felt like I needed to do the responsible thing and bring in an expert who can better explain the current changes in climate better than myself. Hence, I requested aid from a scientist who has not only been credited for researching and discovering much of these climate changes and their effect on viticulture, but who was also a passionate speaker at the conference. Taken from Dr. Gregory Jones website: "Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of how climate variability and change impact natural ecosystems and agriculture. He holds a BA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in the Atmospheric Sciences." <a href="<a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br />”><a href="http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.<br /> I wanted to personally thank Dr. Jones for taking the time to respond. To be honest, we were disappointed that we couldn't get as many interviews as we wanted to at the conference, and Dr. Jones is one we sorely regret not getting on tape. And although Catavino is new to this topic, we've found ourselves wanting to hear more from several experts in the field to both educate us and to offer you more information on a very important topic. Obviously Gregory and his partner in crime, Dr. Hans Schultz from Germany, are two that we hope will allow us to interview them on their work in the future. Thank you Gregory for taking the time to respond, and hopefully, this will be the first of many times we can gain from your expertise on our site.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    After Richard left his comment on our site, I felt like I needed to do the responsible thing and bring in an expert who can better explain the current changes in climate better than myself. Hence, I requested aid from a scientist who has not only been credited for researching and discovering much of these climate changes and their effect on viticulture, but who was also a passionate speaker at the conference.

    Taken from Dr. Gregory Jones website: “Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of how climate variability and change impact natural ecosystems and agriculture. He holds a BA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in the Atmospheric Sciences.” http://www.sou.edu/Geography/JONES/jones.htm.

    I wanted to personally thank Dr. Jones for taking the time to respond. To be honest, we were disappointed that we couldn’t get as many interviews as we wanted to at the conference, and Dr. Jones is one we sorely regret not getting on tape. And although Catavino is new to this topic, we’ve found ourselves wanting to hear more from several experts in the field to both educate us and to offer you more information on a very important topic. Obviously Gregory and his partner in crime, Dr. Hans Schultz from Germany, are two that we hope will allow us to interview them on their work in the future.

    Thank you Gregory for taking the time to respond, and hopefully, this will be the first of many times we can gain from your expertise on our site.

  • RichardA

    Hello Dr. Jones: Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. You certainly seem to have a more balanced view of matters, more than some scientists who tend to the extreme. And I would certainly agree that politics and the media contribute to the conflicts that do occur. We need a fertile ground for research, discussion and debate. The realm of climate change certainly needs further investigation and changes probably do need to be made with not only how wine is made, but how we all live our lives. Thanks again

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    Hello Dr. Jones:
    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. You certainly seem to have a more balanced view of matters, more than some scientists who tend to the extreme. And I would certainly agree that politics and the media contribute to the conflicts that do occur. We need a fertile ground for research, discussion and debate. The realm of climate change certainly needs further investigation and changes probably do need to be made with not only how wine is made, but how we all live our lives.

    Thanks again

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