Want to Sea a Change?
My life has changed a lot this Spring. Moving out of my childhood home, getting a new job and flying up and down to London more often for my Diploma has left me very busy, but not busy enough to realise what’s important…
I've been doing lot of reflection of the past. I was lucky enough to grow up in the most beautiful home that was in my family for 27 years. However, the time has come to move on and flee the nest! Letting go of familar things has been liberating. However, throughout this process I’ve realised how much we can't take for granted. Special times with family and spending time together with a nice bottle of wine is one of life’s precious moments.
However, the wine world is changing. The viability of the industry is being called into question. This is being magnified with the terrifying climatic changes that are ongoing. This is affecting every aspect of life, but lets discuss how wine as we know (and love) is going to change.
“THE OCEAN IS ON FIRE,” sounds like a line Chicken Little would say, but no. Today it is a reality! A gas leak off the Gulf of Mexico has left the sea burning. An underground pipeline owned by the Mexican state oil company, Pemex has burst and ignited under the water, the images are almost apocalyptic. This is a huge awakening for many to bring light to the danger the ocean is in and the issues it is causing to the climate.
Last year I wrote my dissertation on how climate change is impacting the wine industry and consumer purchasing. This year, for my WSET Diploma I was to write a report on how vineyards are seeing the impact and identify what adaption methods they are adopting. This is a recurring topic within the industry and is maybe sounding like a mantra. However, it is so important that it is imperative it's highlighted.
The warming climate is not just melting the icebergs, causing wild fires, droughts, heatwaves and raising temperatures. It is impacting our everyday life, whether we recognise it or not. The subject is so vast and sees so many elements of our lives affected.
The industry is at a cross roads, so much has already been impacted and yet more changes are forecast. Frightening predictions as early as 2050 have been announced. By this time it is believed that California, one of the largest and most renowned growing regions, is expected to loose 51% of viticulture abilities… 51%... In 29 years time...
The region is already seeing a loss to viticulture and permanent changes. The Kincade wildfires of 2019 decimated Napa and Sonoma counties destroying 66,000 acres. One of the oldest wineries in the state was completely destroyed with fire ravishing the vineyard, Soda Rock in Alexander Valley was founded in 1869. Only the wine cellar and 2019 vintage (which luckily had just been picked) were salvaged. Plans are underway to rebuild the iconic landmark.
However, it is not that easy. Fires don’t only destroy buildings, homes and families but also the composition of the soil and the grapes. Ashy soil and smoke taint are extremely temperamental in the growing of grapes. Smoke taint gets into the grape skins and leaves the final wine with burnt plastic aromas. The University of California are currently trying to find a cure or adaption method and have teamed up with a Australian institution who also are seeing the affect of wildfires more frequently.
The wildfires are a result of the increasing temperatures. Average annual temperatures are rising causing budburst, grape growing and harvest to be earlier. This causes even more issues. Earlier bud bust causes problems as brief hot spells can impact the fragile buds to open earlier. Cooler spells and spring frost can then damage the already fragile little buds causing reduced final yields and disease. Bud burst in Alsace, the famous French region bordering Germany, is occurring 15 days earlier than in 1965.
Higher temperatures causes more sugar to accumulate in the grapes. More sugar results in higher alcohol. This isn’t always a good thing. Some producers don’t want the higher alchohol as it unbalances the wine. Decisions need to be to pick early with underripe characters and lesser alcohol. This is changing the way wines are tasting and is a big concern in areas such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, the two highest value regions in France.
Heat changes and drought have resulted in areas of Spain and Southern France loss of grapes and growing ability. The Languedoc region had a 46°C heat wave in 2019, a record temperature. This resulted in 50% loss of overall yield in 24 hours. Situations like this are becoming more common and we are going to loose more wines. This means wine is going to be more expensive!
This is a very brief outline on a whole world of issues. The climate matter in regard to wine gets very complicated and goes into deep detail. If you are considering what you can do to help, keep in mind the following points when you purchase…
When going to buy wine, look at the price and type of wine it is. Is it a cheap wine? Under £5? Consider why. Cheap inexpensive wines from ‘New World’ territories such as Australia and California cause issues of their own. Wines are made using mass irrigation. They are watered extensively to plump up the grapes and get more juice. In areas where water is a precious resource and drought is a big concern...shouldn't it be shared?
Also consider why they are able to grow so much? The use of fertilisers and pesticides help protect the grapes from disease. These are needed in certain climate where damp environments cause fungal disease and other issues. However, everything in moderation. Mass produced sites which use lots of spraying can contaminate the natural water soures and soils again hindering biodiversity and the environmental make up of the land. Try to consider this when purchasing.
A bottle of wine is costed through considering tax, labour required and cost of production. If a wine is £5, how much of this cost is actually the wine content and not the added business figures?
Little changes to purchasing habits such as buying wines with ‘Green Sustainable Credentials’ can really help. This means buying wines with minimal intervention such as organic, natural or biodynamic wines. Each of these are slightly different but the overall idea is purchasing a wine where the vineyard land is left to grow naturally with little help. Winemakers will intervene when needed but will work to increase biodiversity and produce a wine as natural as possible with little use of fertilisers and pesticides.
The Sea Change range is a sustainable wine. This is an organic, environmentally focussed wine. This brand have a specific focus on protecting sealife and keeping plastic from the oceans. Every element of this wine has been sustainably sourced from the glass, cork and contents. The animal on each of the ranges bottles portray which protection charity will get the funds. The wines have been picked up by Sir David Attenborough and the charity has since seen mass consumer awareness.
This Provence rosé is beautifully light and easy. It is deemed the more luxurious of the range and is made by an award winning producer, Chateau Pigoudet. I picked up this bottle for £13. With subtle berry notes, strawberry, zesty grapefruit, white peach and tropical notes, the brand refer to this one as the “Jewel of the Ocean” perfect for any sunny Spring day… or Summer now that I’ve got my life back in order!