Round table wraps up the Symposium

Portuguese corks, Chilean mountains and threats to Spanish wines were the subjects covered in Tuesday’s second round table discussion

To finish off the Symposium, Tuesday, a round table asked the question ‘how do wine producers integrate climate change into their business strategy?’ Chaired by Jim Bittermann, the three speakers represented different regions and different aspects of wine production.


From Portugal, Antonio Amorim, CEO, Corticeira Amorim, spoke first. “This debate is an opportunity going forward. Sustainable does not mean less profitable, organic does not mean less good,” he said. Focusing more closely on his own specialisation, he explained: “The cork industry is one of the most sustainable industries in the world. We don’t cut trees. Each tonne of cork that we harvest from the cork forest retains 73 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The fact that a cork tree can live up to 200 years means there’s a lot of hydrological cycle reserves in the subsoil of the cork forest. We don’t water the trees. Most importantly: we contribute to the carbon footprint and the well-being of the wine industry as one cork weighing 5g can retain up to 390g of carbon dioxide. This means that the 390g of carbon dioxide it takes to make a single glass wine bottle can be cancelled out by one single cork. The cork cancels out the glass industry’s emissions. The cork industry is carbon negative, we can contribute to improving the carbon footprint of the winemaking industry. And now that people know single- use plastics do not contribute to the wellbeing of the planet, I don’t think we will see plastic corks much longer.” Next to contribute was Eduardo Chadwick, CEO, Vina Errazuriz. Reflecting on the generally acknowledged fact that wine geography is changing as global temperatures rise, he said: “Climate change is affecting the world. Even though in Chile we are protected from that we are still dedicated to sustainability and being organic and bio-dynamic in the way we produce wine. We have to be an industry that leads by example. Chile is still a viticulture paradise, and we have two factors that help us combat the warming climate: we have the very cold Humboldt current from Antarctica, off the Pacific coast – 12 degrees. It is very good to have a refreshing wind blowing inland for the cultivators to cool the vineyards. Then we have the Andes – the highest peak of the western world at 7000m is Aconcagua. The cold air drifts down from the glaciers on top over the vineyards, plus we use the melting snow beloved by skiers in the winter to drip-irrigate in the summer.” He concluded with another positive spin on 21st century winemaking: “Being a relatively new wine region, able to produce sustainably is attractive to new markets, which is why Chilean wine is a big seller to countries with little historical wine tradition like Japan, Korea and China.”

The future looks considerably less assured for Spain’s winemakers. “How to integrate climate change into the funding of the wine business,” is the mission according to Jose Luis Benitez, CEO, Spanish Federation of Wines, who showed results of his research into ways to pre-empt problems for the Spanish wine industry, saying: “Over the last few years we developed an action plan on climate change – isolating the biggest threats from climate change, and planning for them. For example we need to invest in drip irrigation to combat droughts and heatwaves, we need hail nets to protect vineyards from hailstorms, and we need anti- frost mills to combat unseasonal frosts. These measures will cost approximately €2,107m in Spain alone and we need to nd the money to pay for this. In Spain, these measures will be more palatable and possible than the alternatives like trying to move entire wine-growing regions; you can’t move 60,000 ha of Rioja up the mountains into a cooler climate”.

Photo: Jim Bittermann, CNN Paris Bureau Chief Antonio Amorim, CEO, Corticeira Amorim Eduardo Chadwick, CEO, Vina Errazuriz. Jose Luis Benitez, CEO, Spanish Federation of Wines