Climate – both political and planetary – prevailed at Vinexpo Bordeaux 2017, June 18-21 at Bordeaux's Parc des Expositions, as the show dived deep into global issues impacting the wine trade.
Fire and Rain: Climate Change and the Wine Industry took on heightened urgency following the U.S.'s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Wine Spectator's Dana Nigro moderated a panel including, among others, Kathryn Hall (former U.S. ambassador, proprietor of Napa Valley's Hall Vineyards) and John P. Holdren (former senior advisor to President Obama and international energy and climate change expert). Of note:
Climate change's obvious effects will reduce grape quality, increase vineyard costs, and shift premium wine grape growing borders. Consumers will experience overripe fruit aromas and tastes, lower acidity, higher sugar and alcohol, and cooked flavors. While rising temperatures will benefit certain regions, per Holdren, increases in extremes will be universally detrimental. Individual vintners are responding: Efforts by Spain's Bodegas Torres include water recycling, rainwater collection, changing rootstocks, lowering planting density, and more sustainable packaging, targeting a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. Tuscany's Gaja Winery is diversifying vines, grasses and insects to boost vine resilience, reduce monoculture risks, and more. Hall noted that while initial green energy investments can be high, she's seen long-term energy cost reductions of 50 percent or more. As local initiatives compensate for the U.S.'s current lack of national climate change leadership, Hall cited Napa Valley Vintners' goal of 100% participation by regional wineries (currently 40%) in the Napa Green environmental certification program. Bodegas Torres president Miguel A. Torres and Gaja Winery co-owner Gaia Gaja were less optimistic; Torres sees economic challenges trumping climate change concerns among Spain's younger generation. Gaja suggested her Italian contemporaries might adopt climate change initiatives once outcomes are proven.
Brexit is causing record-high U.K. wine prices – up 3% in 2017's first quarter vs. 1% in the previous two years, according to Miles Beale, chief executive, UK Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Other news from Vinexpo's Post-Brexit Wine and Spirits Market:
- Panelists unanimously prioritized little or no change to trading arrangements, arguing the UK market, with its €2.5 billion in wine imports and €2.2 billion in spirits exports, is worth fighting for.
- Politicians should avoid using any sector as a bargaining chip, particularly wine and spirits. Jean-Marie Barillère, president, Union of Champagne Houses, noted French exports never fully recovered from backlash to France's 1990 South Pacific nuclear testing.
- "The labour market is another way of saying immigration policy," said Sean Allison, director, Château du Seuil. Referencing the U.K.'s hospitality industry alongside the wine trade, he cautioned stricter immigration policies will create "a very difficult situation in terms of the profitability of these industries."
- While the sterling's devaluation is a barrier to UK sales for some wines, taxes are the bigger problem; Conviviality's group wine buying director Andrew Shaw noted currency swings are 3% or less of the product's total cost.
- Shaw suggested rising UK prices could lead customers to trade up, boosting London's premium wine market "because we engage with the customer at a different level."
Founded by the Bordeaux Gironde Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1981, Vinexpo is the world's leading show for wine and spirits professionals and a worldwide industry partner. Vinexpo is held in Bordeaux in odd-numbered years and Hong Kong and Tokyo in even-numbered years. In 2017, Vinexpo launched Vinexpo Explorer with two days of business meetings and discovering vineyards. Vinexpo New York debuts March 5-6, 2018.
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