~In the nineteen fifties, as the cold war oxymoronically heated up, Americans across the country built underground bomb shelters to protect families from “the big one.”
~We know that should “the big one” land on us, bomb shelters are likely to be as safe as a quilt, but I am certain having a hole in the ground, complete with cans of bad food that probably would kill a human being if eaten over long periods of time, made heads of households feel good about themselves—they had done something about the situation; or had they? Since then, it seems like bombs have proliferated.
Well, fifty years ago, we had bomb shelters—today, we have carbon footprints to worry over.
What in the world has this subject to do with wine?
~Roberto Rogness, my friend and a wine merchant in Santa Monica, California posted a serious question on a wine-oriented bulletin board that I simply could not take serious.
~Roberto is at the spot on the West Coast where muscle beach meets celebrity—where the word (and the functional thing) “sidewalk” may not even be anachronistic because it may never have existed in the first place. I know for a fact that walking on the sidewalk as opposed to driving an S.U.V. on asphalt, creates a carbon footprint as light as a hush puppy!!!
~Seriously, a customer at Roberto’s wine shop, an event planner, wanted to know about the carbon footprint of the wines he would be selling her for a particular event. Apparently, her customers were concerned that they might be drinking wine that is ruining the world.
~I may seem flippant, but I do believe that there is something to the concept that wine production can be making a negative effect on the earth, but so is food production, auto production, computer production, and just about anything produced that relies on tractors, trucks, ships, planes, warehouses and all warehousing material, electricity, water, and I am sure a dozen other things that go into getting something from producer to consumer.
~Maybe it’s unfair, but I am cynically entertaining a vision of the event planner having driven to Roberto’s shop in her shiny S.U.V. (if she can get there on a tank of gas) and the event planner’s customer garaging maybe two S.U.Vs, maybe a gas and oil-guzzling outboard motorboat, and who knows, maybe even a private jet; we are talking celebrityville, after all.
~I imagine this same customer with a refrigerator full of caviar shipped from Russia, or those wonderful Marie biscuits from England (well, they used to be wonderful; today they taste like cardboard deep fried in fat).
~Of course, to get the goodies one loves one either drives to the electrified, air conditioned shopping mall in one’s guzzler or one has someone else’s guzzler do it for you, like an event planner or a delivery truck, which of course means you have to use either your electrified computer or telephone to make contact.
~If this is in fact the situation, this customer might just as well go build a bomb shelter than seek wine that leaves either a mild or no carbon footprint.
Roberto was seeking information in the form of a paper or a study that evaluates the carbon impact of wine production and delivery. He hoped to show it to his event-planner customer.
There may in fact be a study out there, and if there is, I suspect it would show that wine production and delivery makes a reasonably substantial carbon footprint.
Even the most “green” vineyard is likely being worked with the help of a gas or diesel fueled tractor. And I know for a fact that not all wine production is accomplished by the mere force of gravity—electric pumps do a lot of the work, as does electrified presses, lighting inside dark production facilities, pallet-moving equipment like fork lifts, and so on.
If the wineries use equipment, what do you think is used by bottle, box, and pallet makers, plus shipping companies? And oh, the lights and refrigeration in all those wine retail shops, not to mention the fatuous nature of so many “wine experts” that work in them…
~Plainly, I am pin pricking, but the best way to know that you as a consumer are contributing least to the carbon footprint of wine production and sales is to buy local, just as you would with farmed food.
~Go to the winery and buy your product right out of the stainless steel tank or oak barrel. That way, there are no bottles, boxes or pallets involved. Although, you will have to figure out the carbon footprint of whatever container you bring with you to the winery and whatever means you use to transport the stuff that you just bought plus, you will have to fight with the lawmakers who don't allow wineries to sell direct from the tank.
~This is my long-winded way of saying that I find it difficult to take serious the carbon footprint illusions of people who live and work where there are no sidewalks, but I do understand that feel-good thing that thinking about the problem creates.
~Yet, if consumers are serious about the carbon footprint of wine or of anything else, we might turn our energy into doing something about replacing those who have the power to create a more carbon-neutral energy policy: our leaders.
Instead of a national effort to seek and elect rational human beings to high office, we seem to blithely go along listening to the silver-tongued bs of the foxes that we keep electing to stand sentry at the henhouse; then, we build bomb shelters to insulate ourselves from the results and from the responsibility.