How do We Teach Old World Winemakers New Tricks? | Catavino
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Doug Frost MS/MW

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!


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