The wine industry seems to really be finding its way in terms of the impact it has on the environment and the ways it can combat the damage that certain modes of farming, production, bottling, and shipping can have.
Smart growers, for example, have been moving away from chemical pesticides and herbicides for years. They realize that, though the short-term benefits of them may be appealing, the long-term damages that artificial vineyard additives visit upon the land--not to mention the fact that they also tend to make vines lazy and therefore less expressive of the land in which they are planted--run completely counter to what they’re theoretically trying to accomplish with the grapes in the first place.
When I was in Champagne this past September and in Austria in June, I encountered producer after producer with eyes sharply trained on organics or biodynamics or, at the very least, sustainable farming practices. As a result, those wines tended to be more honest, more true, more expressive; and the land itself is being shown the kind of respect that will be repaid with better harvests--and even better wines--far into the future.
Now, Bordeaux is getting into the act, too. Decanter.com reported this morning that “Bordeaux is aiming to be 'world leader in winemaking sustainability' with the launch of an Environmental Management System. Bordeaux wine body the CIVB announced the initiative as part of its commitment to radically reduce carbon emissions by 2050.”
The benefits of farming grapes in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible is constantly thrown into sharp, delicious relief. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is partially biodynamic and has been organic since the late 1980’s. Earlier this week, I was bowled over by a bottle of Emiliana G, a spectacularly expressive Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Merlot blend--biodynamic, organic, wonderful--from Chile. This is the way of the wine world these days, at least when it comes to many of the top producers: Respect the land, don’t obscure it or the fruit with chemicals, and let the wine speak for itself.
We’re all benefiting from this.
Great strides have been made even in the realm of bottling and shipping, too. Champagne bottles, for example, which weigh significantly more than standard wine bottles, are on the way out. A new, lighter bottle, with just as much strength as the standard ones, are making in-roads and will become the norm in the future. And shipping materials, like the high-strength cardboard that Jancis Robinson wrote about on her site last year, are having a very positive impact, too.
The point is this: Farming, producing, and shipping wine with the environment firmly in mind not only benefit the planet, but the juice in the bottle, too. And if we can drink wine with the added knowledge that it’s good for the earth as well as our palate--well, that’s as good as it gets. And, it seems to me, a far more honest way to consume the drink we love. After all, if great wine is all about terroir and an expression of the land, then it only stands to reason that a respect for the land should be a priority.
Lucky for us, these days, it is.