Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Heavy burden


Wineries are on the frontline of the climate crisis, but we can do our bit to support them in their struggle.

Miguel Torres is not one to mince words. “We are not talking about climate change any more, this is a climate emergency,” he said. “For viticultur­e, climate change is worse than phylloxera.” For those who have perhaps missed the significan­ce of the word phylloxera, this was the louse that spread through the vineyards of Europe and eventually the world, consuming the roots of vines and killing them. Starting at the end of the 19th century, the destructio­n lasted for decades, ruined complete regions, altered the way vines are grown and changed the style of wine forever.

Torres, of Familia Torres, is not an alarmist, nor a politician. He is just concerned with growing grapes and making excellent wines. His family has been doing the same for generation­s, and for the last 40 years, he has noticed changes in his vineyards and taken action to counteract the effect of warmer summers. He has planted higher up hillsides and bought land which was viewed as being too cold for vines, yet a decade later, is now planted and vines are flourishin­g. He is also taking great steps to counter the carbon footprint of his winery.

At a briefing in London, Torres was joined by Rob Symington, of Symington Family estates, and Fiona Macklin, from the UN-backed Race to Zero. This was a thought-provoking session setting out what needs to be done, and how the wine industry can achieve targets that might help towards combating climate change.

“The wine industry is like the canary in a coal mine, showing up the effect of changes in climate,” warned Torres. “Drought, heatwaves, fires and severe frosts are symptoms of these changes and the vineyards of the world are already feeling the effects.”

For many years Torres was a lone voice talking about the effect of climate change on vineyards but now others have joined him. Wineries around the world have come together to form the Internatio­nal Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA – www. iwcawine.org) with the aim of encouragin­g wineries to reduce emissions of CO2. With a science-based approach, they share informatio­n about how to reduce waste and develop corporate ecological methods. It is not enough to just join and pay a subscripti­on. Every member is assessed to prove that over the years they are actually reducing their carbon footprint.

“For example,” said Torres, “every year we ferment grapes to make wine. In doing so, we produce carbon dioxide which until recently was just let out into the atmosphere. But we also buy carbon dioxide to preserve the wine in the tank. So now we have changed. We collect the CO2 from fermentati­on and reuse it. If every winery in the world did the same, then CO2 emissions from the wine industry would fall dramatical­ly.”

With electric vehicles, solar panels, a reduction in bottle weight and many other techniques, the Torres winery has reduced its carbon emissions by 30 per cent. It plans to cut them even more by 2030.

What is significan­t is the number of wineries that have joined the IWCA. Jackson Family Wines, with 40 wineries around the world, is a founding member and has brands such as Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and Giant Steps. Yealands in New Zealand, and VSPT, one of Chile’s largest wine exporters, have joined as well as small wineries such as Spottswood­e in California, and Cullen in Australia. Significan­tly, one of the world’s largest wine and beer producers, Constellat­ion, has applied to join along with Yalumba in Australia and one lone property in France, Ch. Troplong Mondot in St Emilion.

Fiona Macklin, from Race to Zero, which works across all industrial sectors emphasised how important the wine industry is in changing mindsets about climate change. “Wine people are natural storytelle­rs, they can get the informatio­n across in a simple, easy way, with wine in a glass.” Rob Symington, from Symington Estates, which makes Graham’s, Warre’s and many other ports also contribute­d by showing that reducing emissions is not necessaril­y expensive. “Many ways of saving CO2 can actually save the company money by reducing wastage. It is all about raising carbon literacy.”

So, what can the regular wine drinker do

 ?? ?? TROUBLE TO WEATHER: Above, Miguel Torres; inset left, some vines just shrivel in a heatwave.
TROUBLE TO WEATHER: Above, Miguel Torres; inset left, some vines just shrivel in a heatwave.
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