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Monday Manifestos
A Green Blog—No Tree Harmed

By Stephen Eliot

Well, yesterday was officially Earth Day, and I could not help but think about the growing and sometimes very silly discussions of “green” as applied to wine.*

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would not for a minute argue against, sustainable, low-impact farming and winemaking. To do otherwise would be like applauding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, finding virtue in high gas prices or condoning Secret Service high jinks in far-away places. That said, I am increasingly annoyed by the new acolytes of “green” who spend their too-few precious hours on earth worrying not only about wholly organic, certifiably sustainable, Demeter-blessed criteria, but also the absolute carbon footprint left by a bottle of good Cabernet.

I admit to having had a damn difficult time in trying to figure out just what “natural” wine really is, and now a new wrench is being thrown into the works insofar as how a wine gets to market. Apparently, that is something that should figure into my enjoyment of this or that bottle. It is enough to make me reach for something stronger than even an overripe Zinfandel.

I have heard the cries that we are drowning in an ocean of toxic, manipulated wines from cynical, out-for-the-buck winemakers that have no commitment to the vinous art and for whom “terroir” is meaningless. Now, there are those who would further make the health of the planet a critical concern in selecting just what I will pour for dinner. Heavy glass bottles are bad. Lighter plastic containers are good (really?) Land freight is bad; air freight is worse. Transport from vineyard to table by sailboat is better, and true “locavore” drinking is best...except, apparently in the minds of a goodly number of San Francisco sommeliers. I am a bit worried, however, that throughout each and every one of these arguments is a certain “guilty until proven innocent” mentality that seems to emanate from each new crop of philosophical crusaders.

Maybe it’s just me, but all of the arguments, from manipulative winemaking to destructive farming to environment-damaging shipping are framed in a way that suggests those who are doing the right thing are few yet represent a growing minority that will “redefine” how things should be done. If you are not mentioned among the elect, you perforce stand with the damned. It is the evangelist’s way.

I know a good many winemakers, and I know very few who are not conscientious and concerned about everything from the health of the land to that of those who enjoy their wines. Of them, I know very few who feel compelled to make a statement of the same and are instead foremost focused on the quality and style of what is in the bottle. The rest is a given, and I hope we are not entering an era where such commitment needs some sort of certifiable proof.

I may be naïve, but I do not happen to believe that modern winemaking has pushed us to the brink of ecological Armageddon. Good winemakers have always understood that real quality is born of attentive viticulture and viniculture, and, I believe, more do today that ever before. I do not understand the “doom is near” preaching that is lately so popular, unless of course, it is something that is redefining how wines are sold rather than how they are made.



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Green or not to green
by Farmer
Posted on:4/24/2012 9:29:43 PM


I have come to the realization that the majority of the human race are Leaners to the optimistic side of life. That is, "even if we are living in a doomsday scenario, some smart person will figure it all out and everything will be alright". Why worry about these fringe scientists that tell us we have to start making changes now, no one else is listening so why should I, smart guys like Charlie find it silly, so I probably should too, after all he knows a hell of a lot about wine, he must know a lot about science, and climate change, and carbon in the atmosphere.....

I feel so much better now. I'll just have another glass of wine.

I am a farmer that can attest to significant changes in my growing conditions and maturity.

Re: Green or not to green
by Stephen M Eliot
Posted on:4/25/2012 5:41:01 AM

Mr. Farmer,

We here at CGCW do not find concerns about global warming in any way silly and, in fact, believe that it is one of the more important political issues of the day.

We also believe that most winemakers are not blind to its effects and are as a whole a very conscientious lot when it comes to stewardship of the land.

The point of the article is simply that the way in which "green" is fast becoming a selling tool would have people erroneously believe that is not the case, that only a very few responsible vintners are taking the high road in contrast to a much larger majority who do not. And, we do worry that this or that "certification" or litmus test is necessary to prove one's worth.

Green is good, but winegrowers have known that for a long time, and we hope that a "guilty until proven innocent" mindset or "I'm greener than you" competition do not become marketing tricks.

hear him! hear him!
by John
Posted on:4/25/2012 11:26:25 AM

Stephen you are absolutely right that most wine producers are good and conscientious stewards. We are not simply looking to reduce our carbon footprint and reach ultimate sustainability in our production methods, we are also working towards sustainable business models not based on never-ending growth, or boom-and-bust.

Most of us are pursuing these goals because it is the right thing to do. We're just doing it. When I see someone shouting loudly about how "green" they are I am skeptical. I wonder what they are trying to make up for. Do their wines suck? Are their business practices in line with what they want us to believe about their commitment to the environment?

Regarding media and (supposed) consumer focus on "being green" - doomsday panic sells papers, and the number of consumers who will buy shit wine from a rapacious business because it  touts itself as "green" is vanishingly small compared to the number who don't know and don't make it the focus of their purchasing and enjoyment.

By the time consumer awareness catches up, I believe there will be far more sustainability in the industry than there already is.

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