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Geothermals, packaging reduction discussed at Barcelona conference

The use of geothermal energy and other carbon-reduction strategies can mean savings of up to 50% in energy use, a climate change conference heard last week.

Miguel Torres (pic: Wine and the City)

More than 20 scientists, climate change experts, viticulturalists and politicians from around the world gave an impassioned plea to the wine world last week – follow our example and save the world.

The Wineries for Climate Protection Conference in Barcelona last Friday was attended by over 400 delegates, mainly from Spain.

Speakers included the former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, now the UN Special Envoy on climate change, and some of the most senior figures in the wine world.

These included Miguel Torres of Torres, Mar Raventós of Codorniu and Pablo Alvarez of Vega Sicilia, as well as representatives from the different Spanish consejos reguladores (wine trade bodies), members of the OIV (the international wine organisation) and the FEV (Federación Española del Vino).

Opening the conference, Tomas Molina of the international Meteorological Association said the aim was for wineries to establish ‘a protocol for change’.

More than a dozen in-house environmental experts such as Ann Thrupp, manager of sustainability and organic development at Fetzer, Carlo de Biasi of Italian producer Zonin, and Moet et Chandonchef de cave Benoït Gouez gave detailed assessments of their environmental strategies.

These ranged from new packaging technology – in Champagne 37% of the carbon footprint comes from packaging, Gouez said – to pyrolysis, breaking down organic materials without oxygen, to the extensive use of geothermics, harnessing energy from depths of 100-400m to both heat and cool wineries.

Geothermics can mean savings of 50% in energy use, Manuel García of Bodegas Regalía de Ollauri in Rioja said.

Gioia Small of Penfolds said it was certain that climate change played a part in ‘vintage time and compression’.

In the early 1990s grapes would reach 22 brix or 16 baume in late March, she said, while by 2010 they reached that level by early March.

One of the most compelling addresses came from viticulturalist Richard Smart, who eschewed graphs and tables to show a slide of his 9-year-old granddaughter.

‘She will be alive at the end of the century. A temperature rise of between 2 and 5 degrees will mean unprecedented social and political turmoil.

‘How good the wines will be at that point will be in some respects irrelevant.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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