Save the pinots!

Leslie Carlson

On August 7, sixteen eighteen wineries joined the Carbon Neutral Challenge, a joint venture of the Oregon Environmental Council, the Oregon Wine Board and the Governor’s office. The goal: to produce great wine without carbon emissions.

It’s an ambitious goal, and an interesting one, since wineries as an industry produce relatively few carbon emissions. They are, however, exquisitely sensitive to the effects of climate change, since different wine grapes grow best in different kinds of climates. In fact, it’s possible that pinot noir may soon be the celebrated grape of the Puget Sound.

Other wine regions are already showing dramatic changes in terroir. In particular, the Spanish grape-growing regions have been shifting to higher altitudes as the heat increases.

I’d be sad to see Oregon pinot noir go. In my lifetime, our wines have gone from little-known to world-famous. The result is an industry that continues to boom, but a stable climate is essential to preserving economic growth. In fact, this is another example that fighting global warming will help the economy, while doing nothing could wipe out an entire industry.

I’d hate to see the next generation of great pinot noirs come from Washington.

So now the onus is on us wine drinkers. Next time I pop a cork, I’ll make mine local and carbon neutral.

  • Jesse B. (unverified)

    That's what I'm talking about. It surely is a welcome sight to see an entire industry working towards being carbon neutral.

    Especially the wine industry. Mmm, mmm, tasty.

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    Now we gotta get the beer guys on board!

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    We need the beer guys in Oregon to start making lambic beers so I don't have to go to Belgium to get beer I like. Airplane travel generates a lot of carbon. %^>

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    Sheesh, SV, they do sell some of those lovely Belgians here in the state...

  • Garlynn -- (unverified)

    Well, look on the bright side:

    If the pinots go north, at least Oregon would finally be able to start growing some decent Zinfandels.


    I think that if climate change gets to the point where Oregon pinots no longer taste like Oregon pinots, however, we might start having some bigger problems on our hands.

    I agree that the beer guys need to jump on this, though, they would seem to have a much higher carbon footprint...

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    So all you beer-drinking dudes and gals: why aren't the microbrewers more environmentally aware? This seems like a great opportunity for an Oregon-based brewer to really stand out from the crowd...

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    well, if we have to start growing hot-weather grapes, que syrah syrah.

    i apologize. that was a zin.

  • Jesse B. (unverified)

    I agree about the beer guys. There are a few out there, though.

    Hopworks is a new brewery that is organic. I had their Organic IPA at the Brewers Fest. Delicious.

    Hardest part about that in Oregon is the hops, no? I believe most organic hops are imported.

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    Breweries aren't too bad. For years they've been recycling their spent grains, and the move toward organics is underway (HUB was preceded by Roots Organic). The two big issues are heavy water and substantial power use. Some breweries are tackling these, but it's not yet widespread. Keep our fingers crossed.

    (A major issue is that for a lot of breweries, the operations are shoestring--no money to buy photovoltaic cells and so on.)

  • pacowan (unverified)

    hops are very, very pesty, however, the pests that lke hops don't live in new zealand, so that is the only place where it is really easy to grow them organically. i think some local producers are starting to pop up, at least in washington there is on.e

  • David The Troll (unverified)

    Yeah Nome If we Could get them To reduce Their Illegal Alien Foot print And Pay For Citizens to pluck their Grapes...

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)

    Is it correct to conclude that breweries going organic necessarily means they have lowered their carbon footprint? There was an interesting piece on NPR this morning about RoundUp, and genetically-engineered soybeans which is RoundUp resistant, so they can use RoundUp rampantly, without killing the soybeans. "Oohh ... roundup = chemical = bad." Except the interesting part of the story is that it allows farmers to either not plow, or plow lots less, thus reducing their carbon output dramatically. My point is, there isn't necessarily a link between "organic" and carbon-sensitive.

  • Commissioner Gordon (unverified)

    Robin: Holy Heatwave, Batman! The whole planet is warming because of fossil fuel carbon emissions! All of the fresh-water glaciers are receding! The Poles are melting! Sea levels are rising and threatening coastal cities where billions of people live! The permafrost is melting on the northern tundra, causing man-made structures to sink, and releasing more billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere! And yet, billions of humans in thrall of those multinational energy corporations keep ripping more coal and oil and natural gas from under the crust of the earth and spewing more carbon into the atmosphere! We've got to act now, Batman!

    Batman: Calm down, Robin - not so hasty, now! The good people in a place called "Western Oregon" have a plan to stop the Global Warming by implementing a Bold Plan of Immediate Action!

    Robin: Golly Batman! That's great news! Where's "Western Oregon?"

    Batman: It's over here on the map, between Canada and Mexico somewhere... by the ocean I think... somewhat north of California... wait, I'm Googling it now!

    Robin: Gosh! I'm so relieved, Batman! How are those brave people going to stop the terrible processes of sudden climate change, what with the floods, severe weather events, and massive displacement of human and animal populations?

    Batman: It's quite simple, Robin. They are very concerned that it might get too hot for a certain kind of grape called "Pinot Noir" to grow very well, and they know that a place called "Washington" might get better at growing those grapes if they don't drink wines that are called "Carbon Neutral"

    Robin: Ummmm, so these brave, selfless people of Western Oregon are going to, uh, start drinking wine that, says, um, "Western Oregon Carbon Neutral Pinot Noir" in order to save the planet and keep Western Oregon from getting hotter?

    Batman: Yes, they will, Robin! And so will you, and so will I!

    Robin: B-b-but... I don't drink wine, Batman! I-I-I'm not even old enough!

    Batman: {Backhands Robin upside his left cheek} Well, You're about to start, Pup! Yer gonna drink certified Carbon Neutral Western Oregon Pinot Noir until it kills you or planetary greenhouse gas emissions are reversed, whichever comes first, ya little bastard! {Crams Carbon Neutral bottle of wine down Robin's throat. Planet is saved. Curtain falls}

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    "there isn't necessarily a link between "organic" and carbon-sensitive."

    There is not one-to-one correspondance, but there is very high correlation between non-organic agriculture and high energy use/carbon dioxide output. Synthetic fertilizers are high energy consumers, as are pesticides. Fields bereft of organic matter require more irrigation.

    <h2>By the way, there are organic no-till techniques that use neither Roundup nor GMO seeds.</h2>

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