My thoughts on the 3rd Climate Change and Wine Conference, (CWC)

When asked to speak at the 3rd CCWC , in Marbella Spain, I was to be honest quite honored. Considering that former Vice President Al Gore was the keynote speaker in 2008 and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was this year’s keynote speaker, I anticipated meeting a group of individuals who had come together to learn from each other and discuss ways in which wineries were going to reduce their carbon footprint as well as how the changing climate was affecting their vineyards. Added to that, my goal was introduce the European wine community to our organization. I’m now sitting in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam writing this blog waiting for my plane home and reflecting on what I did experience.
What I heard from most of wineries was how climate change is affecting the growing seasons, grape maturation and how sugar/acidity levels were changing dramatically. I saw lots of charts that showed 10 year heat indexes and tannic variations. All very interesting, for about the first two hours, but two full days and I was a little bored.
What I didn’t hear a lot of was what wineries were doing to reduce their use of water and electricity and CO2 emissions. What are they going to do as an industry to take action to encourage their governments to commit to reducing and capping CO2 emissions? On the positive side I learned from Inge Kotze of the WWF what that organization is doing in South Africa to help return the vineyard areas to self-sustaining water sheds, by removing invasive alien vegetation that is draining the soil of its water. I listened with total rapture as Nicolas Joly spoke both eloquently and passionately about his 30 year love affair with farming biodynamically. I tasted some great wines, questioned the sanity of more than one organic/biodynamic winery that closes their bottles with screw caps, ate some amazing Mediterranean food (with Maria Sinskey and Lynn Sherriff at Skina) and made some really good friends.
I do not want to imply that those who attended did so with anything other than a pure and sincere desire to know how and why their world is changing. What I would offer for the next CCWC conference is to bring together experts in the fields of environmental science, renewable energy, and sustainable packaging and vineyard practices. Let those wineries who want to attend take away more knowledge than they came with. I might get banned from the next conference, but let’s have less wineries pouring wine and more wineries sharing their successes in reducing their carbon footprint and over those stories, I’ll be happy to share a glass of wine.