On Wine and Carbon

So this is going to be a stretch for most people, but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway.

This morning I received an invitation to participate in a “virtual tasting” of a French wine. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a “virtual tasting” is a marketing event where the wine producer or distributor mails complementary bottles of their wine to reviewers/tweeters/bloggers and others of my ilk with the request that the recipients all open up their bottles at the same time, pour it, taste it and tweet/blog about their thoughts all in “real time”.  It is a clever conceit and a cool way of promoting a beverage using social media.

I ordinarily would have enthusiastically said “yes”.  But recently I’ve been thinking about the environmental impact of shipping all that wine from France to the US, then boxing it in protective packaging, followed by shipping all those individual bottles to all of the tweeters and bloggers all over the US.  How much carbon is released into the environment in the transportation and production of all that packaging?  How much more carbon is released into the environment for every subsequent bottle of that French wine that is sold in the US?

Particularly for those of us in California, where most of us live within 2 hours of excellent wine producing regions, it does not make sense to me, from an environmental standpoint, to regularly partake of European, South American or Australian wines.  If we are serious about reducing global climate change and serious about supporting local agriculture, is buying wines that have traveled 3000 or 8000 or more miles really something we want to do on a regular basis?  Is that cheap Chilean wine really that cheap when you take into account the carbon released in getting it to the US?

I don’t know.

I am also conflicted.  Because I really do enjoy some European and South American wines.  I can’t say that as a matter of principal that I won’t drink these wines.  I like ‘em and I’ll drink ‘em.  But maybe not on a regular basis.  Maybe I’ll be looking more and more at my local wineries for my everyday wines.

And I also know that in California we are blessed to have so many really good wineries so close to major population centers.  Those in other parts of the country don’t have so many excellent locally produced choices.  If they want a good wine, they may need to buy wines with higher associated carbon emissions.

But still.  I think it is something to at least think about while we are strolling down the wine aisle.

About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.