Rethinking the Business Side of Climate Change and Wine


Last week’s column about the Porto conference on Climate Change and Wine struck an optimistic note. Powered in part by the Porto Protocol the big international gathering showed that the wine industry is moving the needle on climate change, both in terms of mitigating the impacts and addressing causes.

Sue and I learned a lot from the experts who spoke on the science and technology aspects of climate change and wine, but of course it was the business side we were most interested in.  If you have a little time, for example, I recommend watching the video of the session on “Consumer Expectations and Sensible Marketing” featuring Marks & Spencer’s Paul Willgoss, Antonio Amorim of Amorim Cork, and moderator Richard Halstead.

“Economy & Efficiency: Call to Action” was the title of the final session on the second day, which featured Stephen Rannekleiv of Rabobank, Robert Swaak of PriceWaterhouseCooers, and me as speaker/moderator. I led off the discussion, focusing on the need to rethink the relationship between economics and the environment and issuing a call to action.

Stephen was next up, showing how Rabobank has gone beyond its traditional role as an agricultural lender to creating platforms where innovative solutions can be tested and developoed.  He followed up with a program on this subject on the popular Rabobank beverage industry podcast Liquid Assets.

Robert’s powerful talk covered several important points, but was especially effective in developing the notion that climate change introduces or magnifies a number of risks, which wine businesses need explicitly to take into account and act upon.


As I wrote in the run up to the conference, Sue and I were interested in the trade show that took place along side the sessions. We were hoping to see a showing of the products and services that vendors provide to firms that are committed to climate change action. What we found was different from our expectations. The trade show mainly gave conference sponsors (see graphic below) an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. sponsors

We were a little disappointed, but I think we harbored unrealistic expectations. Vendors are  more likely to put their efforts into meetings that attract thousands, not hundreds, of wine industry actors. The Unified Symposium in the U.S., for example. Or SIMEI in Milan. We will look closely when we are at these and similar events to see to what extent climate change is being integrated into the daily business of wine.

2 responses

  1. In 2017, I attended a 25 year vertical tasting, 1989-2014, of Clos de l’Obac wines from Priorat, Spain. All wines were brought to the tasting in Chicago,, as well as one in NY and one in Newport Beach.
    All the wines were fresh and vibrant, and the tasting was especially useful since the blend was exactly the same since winning a gold from Gault Millieu for the ’89.
    But here is the thing and why the same blend is important: from 2011 on the alcohol levels crept up and I have since learned that the higher temps raise the sugars causing picking beefore the phenols have time to develop. Thus climate change will be a significant problem especially in cooler climes like Burgundy and one winemsker has said in 10 years there will be no more merlot in Bordeaux! Good luck!

  2. António Amorim’s carbon argument is irrelevant as the amount of energy required to produce wine closures is negligible when compared to the huge carbon footprint of glass bottles. Corks are closly connected to the NO1 problem of the industry, the shipping of glass bottles.

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