As many of the wine industry’s leaders in sustainable winemaking and distribution gather in London for the Future of Wine event, organised by Sustainable Wine, we turn to arguably wine’s most authoritative and respected figure on the subject. Miguel Torres, president of Familia Torres, who has spent most of his distinguished career not only championing the need for the wine industry to do more to tackle climate change, but pioneering new viticultural methods in his own vineyards to do exactly that. Here in this typically succinct and forthright thought piece, produced for the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino, he sets out his hopes for the sector going forward.
Miguel Torres on the actions he is taking and believes others can take to make a real difference in the urgent need to tackle climate change and rising temperatures around the world.
There are many commentators, critics and wine writers that have made Spain their specialist wine subject around the world. But for all their efforts, nothing really beats the expertise of trade professionals working in the industry, making, buying and selling Spanish wine. Which is what the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino (GOCV) was first set up by Wines of Spain in 1985 to achieve.
To both recognise and also provide a platform for individuals that have helped advance and promote quality Spanish wine in the UK. Earlier this year the GOCV launched a new website to publish and help promote the work its 82 members do in their respective channels of the wine trade and to establish itself as the most authoritative voice on Spanish wine in the sector.
Here Miguel Torres, president of Familia Torres, and a member of the GOCV since 1990, more than lives up to that goal with this clear, passionate call for the wine industry as a whole to unite and do more to tackle climate change.
The other day I saw Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations, and I was again impressed. What this young Swedish activist has achieved in the past year is outstanding and very necessary. Hopefully now the message has arrived to politicians, companies and individuals: we must decarbonise our worldwide economy in order to contain the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2040, and this requires the involvement of everyone.
We have to reduce our emissions drastically and doing a ‘little’ better is not enough. Sometimes I have the impression that people don’t realise how serious the problem really is. Maybe now after this abnormal and high temperature summer in Europe with abnormal and extreme rain patterns, people will start to realise that something is going on (or actually going wrong) and that everyone has to change his or her lifestyle.
Practically all vine growers in the world noticed climate change starting to take place one to two decades ago, as vines are very sensitive to temperature changes. At Torres we have seen an increase of 1.3 C in the average temperature in our region over the past 40 years and now the beginning of our harvest is as an average 10 days earlier than 20 years ago.
The problem is that the different parts of a wine grape do not necessarily mature at the same rhythm. When the weather is warmer, the fruit of the grapes will become riper and sweeter earlier. But the seeds and skins ripe slower, which causes a growing imbalance in maturity.
So the key word and work is to delay maturation. To achieve that, as a vine grower you basically have three options:
* In the first place to implement viticulture practices that help to delay the ripening of the grapes; through experimenting we saw that different training systems, cover cropping, canopy management, plant density, different rootstocks and even the use of shade-nets help to delay maturation.
* The second option is to plant vineyards in cooler areas, for example at a higher altitude, as every 100m you go up, the temperature will go down by almost 1 degree. We have already planted more than 100 hectares in the pre-Pyrenees at almost 1.000 meters and the results are excellent.
And the third option is to replant grape varieties that are so-called ‘late-ripening’ varieties. This can be a big advantage as they carry the ‘delayed maturation’ standard in their DNA.
We first started our own research project into ancestral grape varieties some 30 years ago. This project was actually set-up to bring back forgotten varieties out of a sort of cultural heritage responsibility; almost an exercise in viticultural archaeology. As a lucky side-result, we also found that some of these forgotten grape varieties are late-ripening varieties and moreover some of them turned out to be very resistant to drought and heat.
All of these are very helpful adaption measures, but at the same time we all need to drastically reduce our emissions and help to de-carbonise our planet. Not only is action needed from governments and companies to fight against climate change with clear and ambitious goals, but we all should also contribute as individuals.
By making lifestyle changes, as small as they might seem, everyone can contribute; for example, using less air conditioning/heating, changing to LED light bulbs, or eating less meat, is something everyone can start today. Every company should have a de-carbonisation program in place, but I think the key here is to work together.
It is why at the beginning of this year Jackson Family Wines and Torres started a new initiative called ‘International Wineries for Climate Action’ to make the collaboration between wineries regarding climate change easier.
The idea is that IWCA will be a trigger for other wineries to join and accelerate or to start the implementation of carbon-emissions-reduction-programs. We are now six months later, and it is great to see that already several wineries are in process of becoming an IWCA applicant or a full member.
I very much hope that the vision of Dr Jamie Goode (who spoke at the Familia Torres Climate Change Course in April of this year) will be a reality in a few years – “to make carbon emissions socially inacceptable, whether they are produced by companies or individuals”.
This certainly involves a change of paradigm, but here the question is: would consumers accept a considerable tax increase on fossil products? Would that stop growth?
- Anyone involved in tackling climate change and introducing sustainable measures in their business can sign up to the Porto Protocol that has been set up to help share best practice within the industry on what different organisations are doing. Find out more here.
- For more details on the Future of Wine event being held by Sustainable Wine on November 4 click here.
- To find our more about the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino (GOCV) then click and go to its website.