Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres Snr has said that wineries must aim to be carbon neutral and that he is looking at ways to re-use carbon dioxide from fermentation as part of a project that involves investing more than 10% of company profits annually. John Stimpfig reports from Penedes.

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Miguel Torres Snr, president of Bodegas Torres and with operations across Spain, US and Chile, was speaking at a Torres & Earth presentation in Penedes, Catalonia, this month to showcase new and emerging technologies that could help wineries mitigate the effects of climate change.

‘In 10-15 years, I think it is perfectly possible we will see wineries which are carbon neutral with zero carbon emissions,’ he said.

Torres has become known as a passionate advocate of environmental protection after he saw Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in 2007.

‘I came out of the film and said to my wife, “we have to do something about global warming for the sake of our vineyards”,’ he said.

Several studies suggest that climate change poses stark risks for vineyards, which may be exposed to more extreme weather and see traditional grape varieties struggle to achieve balance in altered conditions.

Many scientists believe that it is close to inevitable that global temperatures will rise by two degrees this century, without rapid intervention from the world’s biggest polluters.

Bodegas Torres has said it is focused on developing technologies to capture and reuse carbon dioxide.

‘Climate change has not gone away, but nobody is really talking about it,’ Torres Snr told Decanter.com.

‘Moreover, it remains the biggest challenge facing the wine industry in general and vine-growing in particular.

‘Increasing temperatures mean that the grape harvest is earlier every year, which could come to affect the quality of wines and even alter the vine growing map.’

Torres has committed to reducing carbon emissions, from vine to final destination, by 30% versus 2008 levels by 2020; one of several sustainability initiatives now up-and-running across the wine world.

To achieve that, Torres said that its family business has consistently set aside 11% of its annual profits for environmental projects. This year, the total investment in the programme will exceed 12m euros.

It now has a biomass boiler in Penedes, cutting 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Solar and photovoltaic installations have also enabled the Penedes winery to generate 25% of its own electricity needs.

Other eco efficiency measures include optimising water resources, reducing average bottle weight, insulating vats and transportation. This year it created the Torres & Earth Supplier Awards to encourage its suppliers in the same direction.

How has it done? In 2016, Bodegas Torres had reduced its own CO2 emissions by 40% compared to 2008. When suppliers and partners are included, the figure was 18.9% at the end of June 2017; meaning there is more to be done to hit the 30% overall reduction target.

Torres Snr said the company was already looking at the possibility of becoming carbon neutral. He is interested in the complex area of carbon capture, storage and potential reuse – turning CO2 back into energy.

Each year, Torres produces 3,000 tonnes of CO2 by fermenting grapes.

‘The idea is to capture CO2 from fermentation and then transform it into a source of energy which could be used to reduce cost or sold to generate income,’ Torres Snr said.

His said his team has been working in Penedes with universities and commercial companies on ways to achieve this.

He added that Torres will make its research results available to other wineries.

‘All they need to do is register an interest. Already, 25 Spanish wineries have done so.’

But, he said that he would also like to see more environmental support from the Spanish government.

‘I have been frustrated by the overall progress in sustainability in our industry to date. When we set up Wineries for Climate Change in Spain, three years ago, the response was disappointing.

‘But now I think people are prepared and ready to invest. It is helped by the fact that the cost of renewables has come down, which is a positive trend. But also attitudes and the technology are changing fast.

‘In 10-15 years you will see a big difference. We will have carbon neutral wineries with no emissions. I promise you this is not a pipe dream. We will make it happen.’

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