The Valley Wire
Going well beyond the wine glass
Tasting Climate Change wine conference delves into challenges, solutions
There’s no question about it: we can no longer ignore the glaring signs of nature’s response to climate change.
Things like extreme frosts killing vitis vinifera vines in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, emerging new insects, and rapidly spreading vine disease on hybrid clones from increased temperatures have become a frustrating reality for many local vineyard owners.
Consumers and producers need to ask what can be done? What’s my impact as a wine and beverage patron in climate crisis?
The reality posed at the recent Tasting Climate Change (TTC) wine conference held at Lightfoot & Wolfville demonstrated - with plenty of research and data - precious resources will become more scarce as the planet’s population rises from 2.5 billion (in 1945) to a prediction of nine billion by 2050.
TTC founder, author, wine journalist and media personality WSET certified diploma level Michelle Bouffard led a panel of local vineyards, winemakers and viticulturists, wine retail agencies and restaurant owners on supporting sustainable winemaking practices.
With more awareness on the subject, “there is hope in numbers,” Bouffard said.
She reiterated despite the wine industry’s fragmentation, “we can’t undermine what a conversation can do.”
But first, we must ask ourselves what our collective responsibilities remain in supporting local vineyards and beverage companies?
How can we differentiate between the sustainable companies versus giant corporate? Buying local is one way and was the focus of TTC.
“Challenge means opportunity, we need to work with wine and beverage producers to face climate change collectively,” said Dr. Debi Ingis, a biochem professor at McMaster University who began her career at the Cool Climate, Oenology & Viticulture Institute at Brock University in Niagara, Ont.
The good news is that there are more sustainable options and practices in the vineyard, winery and beyond: from ecofriendly labels and printers to energy efficient distribution and transportation tactics, to overall packaging of its products. This is something many local producers are open to. However, the cost of equipment is not always favourable for smaller businesses with already razor thin margins.
One thing remained consistent across the panel: research is essential and a helping hand from the government is needed in obtaining a longterm solution and plan.
The wine conference tackled some hard questions and potential solutions for the local wine and beverage industry to consider. For example, how does you know when a wine is made sustainably?
There are label indicators on labels to look for such as certified organic and biodynamic, as well as energy efficient certifications like LEEDS Canada, a Green Energy Building, a rating system that works with businesses to tweak unnecessary energy use. But the panel strongly suggests to “do your research” ahead of time, as the label might not always tell the full story. Check out the company’s website and social media stories.
Also brought up was: when buying local food and drink what should environmentally conscious consumers consider? Consider packaging, carbon footprint, farming practices, such as biodynamic farming, using as little energy as possible and recycling resources.
What about buying organic? Is it the same as buying sustainably? Although consumers seem to resonate most with an “organic” label, organic doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable. According to panelists from Bishops Cellar, “most consumers remain in the dark.”
Europe is answering this dilemma with implementing a mandatory QR-code to obtain the answers to your sustainability related wine questions. When buying wine from local specialty wine shop curators, having knowledgeable staff helps in educating consumers.
For a good breakdown of differentiating between certified organic, biodynamic winemaking practices, The David Suzuki Foundation (https://davidsuzuki.org/living-green/organic-wine-explained/) is a good resource.
Another question posed was what are some challenges for Annapolis Valley producers?
“Many of the North American clones available come with disease,” Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, head winemaker with Benjamin Bridge said.
Chaotic climate shifts bring more opportunities for diseases and new insects/vineyard pests – and diseases seem to be spreading faster.
Also, new sustainable equipment like tractors with solar panels are often exorbitantly expensive, making them inaccessible to smaller operations.
“Government can do a lot more with collaboration,” as Micheal Lightfoot, owner of Lightfoot and Wolfville pointed out, bureaucratic red tape is often a challenge.
There is good news, though. Not only is Nova Scotia in a better position as a cooler climate wine region, it’s viewed as a progressive energy-leader province within Canada. “We all have a place, like a drop of water. There is no black and white, and it will never be picture perfect,” acknowledged Bouffard, adding if we don’t start planning together now, we may reach a tipping point of no-return, sooner than later.