The quest for a new world order is now well underway, with humanity willing itself towards initiatives and practices aimed at ensuring future planet sustainability through the halting of climate change. Carbon emissions, pollution, single-use plastics, fossil fuels, the music videos of Justin Bieber….all these horrid things that deplete earth of its ability to sustain natural wonders must go. Change is coming, and it is coming fast.
And quite rightly so, I say. Although I wouldn’t mind a slight warming of the groin-achingly cold Atlantic Ocean off Clifton Beach, as well as a few more sunny days within which to fish the Test River in Hampshire. However, climate change’s pillaging of nature and the subsequent effect on humanity must be stopped. Even if it is just to end the tireless stream of inserts on SkyNews showing inhabitants of Bangladesh trying to clear their flooded hovels.
With change and action, come protest and here in the wine industry the first signs of dissent are being seen and heard. Loud and clear.
This charge is, obviously, led by the media, with various wine journalists taking-up the banner against climate change and carbon emissions by openly berating wine producers who dare to use heavy wine bottles. Naming and shaming of wines packaged in weighty glass appears to be the order of the day, and as so often in these mini-bouts of saintly hysteria, the admonishment is a one-sided affair with only a single side of the complex scenario addressed.
Yes, if someone sends-out their wine in a bottle heavy enough to concuss a male white rhino in mating season, you don’t have to be a WWF scientist to know that a dense bottle is not conducive to a sane and sustainable production chain. Think of the effort demanded from the transportation, as well as all the toxic gasses sent into the atmosphere during the energy-sapping process the big bottle undergoes in the furnace.
However, taking a step back, one has to acknowledge that choosing to publicly crucify producers for using heavy bottles to highlight one’s moral conscience is a cop-out. It is grasping at low-hanging fruit without acknowledging the broader nuance of sustainability in the winemaking process. The chain of production is long and complex, and bottles are but one aspect whose effect on the environment is inextricably linked to various other links in said chain.
For example: Chateaux Dense sells its Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend in an ostentatious bottle weighing 1,1kg before being filled. Why? It is tradition, it looks good, it looks serious. Whatever. So, on account of this brutally big bottle, Chateaux Dense is in for some outing and cancelling from the eco-warriors of wine writing and criticism.
But hang on. Upon closer inspection, it would appear that outside of these massive glass bottles, Chateaux Dense employs wine-farming activities that are all green marks on the sustainable road-map. The vineyards are unirrigated, thus not requiring the energy of pumping water nor the sucking-up of nature’s most important resource. Plus, the vines are farmed organically with cover-crops laid lushly between the rows where they mainline inordinate amounts of carbon from the environment. The winery is also 100% solar-powered, and the workers wear overalls made from recycled cotton that is also hand-picked from organic cotton-fields.
So, besides them bottles, Chateaux Dense is pretty much an eco-warrior wine commentator’s wet dream, if such a thing was still possible in those circles.
On the other hand of Chateaux Dense, one has Gillsrip Vineyards, a media darling due to the fact that this winery’s Merlot and Chenin Blanc comes in lightweight bottles thin and fragile enough to crack at the sound of an inebriated cellar-hand’s fart. Lovely and light, hitting the scale at a few hundred grams, Gillsrip Vineyards uses these flimsy light-weight bottles to position itself as a green crusader, one with intense concern at the horror of climate change. However, looking at the farm itself, the situation is different.
A diesel-engine pump has to take water from a river and send it through four kilometres of plastic piping so that the vines of Gillsrip can be irrigated. Chemical fertiliser and pesticide gets sprayed onto the vines from a throaty, coughing tractor, and during and after fermentation, Gillsrip Chenin Blanc is cooled by coal-powered electricity. However, the bottles are tender and light, and therefore in the eyes of the world, the producer is an exemplary crusader for sustainability in the wine industry.
Yes, these fictitious examples are extreme, but not irrelevant. What this shows, is that to support the quest to sustainability and the fight against climate change, those talking and commenting on the wine industry would help the cause by looking at the problem and the challenges in their entirety instead of grabbing onto the first suitable example. Because if there were an easy answer to all this, we would have found it a long time ago.
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