Four Faces of Wine and Sustainability

I made a virtual visit to Umeå, Sweden last week to accept (via video) the Gourmand award that my book Wine Wars II: the Global Battle for the Soul of Wine received as an outstanding contribution to the analysis of wine and sustainability.

Wine Wars II is one of four books that received this special award and I think it is revealing to consider them together to appreciate the complexity of the sustainability and wine issue.

As I understand it, sustainability is all about the tension between and among seemingly opposite poles and the need to navigate the force fields thus created.

First, Sustainability is a global concern (think United Nations Sustainable Development goals), but it is a battle that must be fought one locality at a time. Think global, act local. (One scholar coined the term “glocal” to describe this situation, but I avoid it since it sounds like my cat coughing up a hairball.)

The first pair of books on the award list, Manifeste Chateau Cheval Blanc and  Agroecologie: Quatre Saisons du domaine de l’Apocolypse  examine the problem from the local level in France and Greece respectively, giving us a look at how global principles are translated into local practice, with attention to the specific challenges and opportunities.

Science and business are often seen as opposite sides of the sustainability issue, too, but is this the case? The second pair of books explores this tension in two very different ways. Jamie Goode’s book on Regenerative Viticulture  takes a scientific approach to sustainability, developing a toolkit to be applied thoughtfully to specific situations to make viticulture more truly sustainable.

If business and its profit motives are the enemies of sustainability, what can drive wine firms to adopt the tools and follow the examples that the first three books listed here provide? My answer in Wine Wars II is risk. Adopting sustainable practices may come at a cost, but not taking action is costly too and wine businesses are increasingly being forced to confront those costs both in the field and on their business accounts.

Climate change creates material risks that businesses must report and attempt to manage and it is informative to see what wine sector businesses see as the most important risks and what they are doing to address them.

But there is most to consider from the economic perspective. Sensible practices in the vineyard and cellar are only truly sustainable if they are also economically sustainable. The final section of Wine Wars II explores wine’s “triple crisis” (environment, economy, identity) and tries to help readers think clearly about the complicated issues the wine industry faces today.


Many thanks to Edouard Cointreau and the Gourmand awards team, both for the specific recognition for Wine Wars II and for their efforts to draw attention to the many faces of wine and sustainability. Congratulations and thanks, too, to Pierre Ly who accepted the award certificate for Wine Wars II. Adventures on the China Wine Trailby Pierre Ly and Cynthia Howson, also received a Gourmand award at the ceremony.

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