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3.21.2008 9:30 AM

Drinking Responsibly

Do You Know Where Your Wine Came From?

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Photo: William Walsh / istock

By Annie Bell Muzaurieta

If you have friends or colleagues who aren't concerned about climate change, try hitting them with this: your booze will be affected.

The Nature Conservancy hosted a panel on climate change and wine this week that illustrated the effect of changing temperatures on wine. According to Dr. Dominique Bachelet, the Director of Climate Change Science at The Nature Conservancy, when temps are too cold, the wine might suffer from low sugar levels and unripe flavors. Too hot, and the wine might have overripe flavors and a lower retention of acids. Those skeptics should at least be mildly concerned by now.

There are steps you can take to be an environmentally aware aficionado. Tyler Colman, who writes the wine blog drvino.com and who spoke at the event, has studied the carbon footprint of wine. He was specifically interested in how a bottle of wine gets from the vineyard to your table, and the greenhouse gases that are emitted along the way.

According to Colman, if you live east of Cincinnati, you should enjoy a nice bottle of Bordeaux tonight, because that bottle's journey will have had less of an impact on the environment than one from California. (Ohio is about equidistant between the two sources.) Container shipping - how the Bordeaux is transported here - is the least offensive mode of transportation when compared to planes and trucks. Whereas the bottle from California requires greenhouse-gas-belching trucks for its journey.

If you're wondering, organic wines didn't play much of a role in his carbon footprint calculations because transportation was the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Naturally, organic wine making has other environmental benefits, such as providing a less toxic environment for workers and contributing less pollution to the local area.

His other tips for the eco-conscious oenophile? Opt for local wine and boxed wine (he knows - quality is a problem). Look for big bottles and lighter bottles, too (more wine, less glass).


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