Call for (more) action

Miguel A. Torres, president, Familia Torres

By Miguel A. Torres – 4th generation and President Familia Torres and GOCV member since 1990.

The other day I saw Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations, and I was again impressed. What this young Swedish activist has achieved in the past year is outstanding and very necessary. Hopefully now the message has arrived to politicians, companies and individuals: we must decarbonize our worldwide economy in order to contain the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2040, and this requires the involvement of everyone. We have to reduce our emissions drastically and doing a ‘little’ better is not enough. Sometimes I have the impression that people don’t realize how serious the problem really is. Maybe now after this abnormal and high temperature summer in Europe with abnormal and extreme rain patterns, people start to realize that something is going on (or actually going wrong) and that everyone has to change his or her lifestyle.

“…doing a ‘little’ better is not enough. Sometimes I have the impression that people don’t realize how serious the problem really is.”

Miguel A. Torres

Practically all vine growers in the world already noticed climate change 1-2 decades ago, as vines are very sensitive to temperature changes. At Torres we have seen an increase of 1,3 C in the average temperature in our region over the past 40 years and now the beginning of our harvest is as an average 10 days earlier than 20 years ago. The problem is that the different parts of a wine grape do not necessarily mature at the same rhythm. When the weather is warmer, the fruit of the grapes will become riper and sweeter earlier. But the seeds and skins ripe slower, which causes a growing imbalance in maturity.

So the key word and work is to delay maturation. To achieve that, as a vine grower you basically have 3 options:

In the first place to implement viticulture practices that help delaying the ripening of the grapes; through experimenting we saw that different training systems, cover cropping, canopy management, plant density, different rootstocks and even the use of shade-nets help to delay maturation.

The second option is to plant vineyards in cooler areas, for example at a higher altitude, as every 100m you go up, the temperature will go down by almost 1 C. We have already planted more than 100 hectares in the Pre-Pyrenees at almost 1.000 meters and the results are excellent.

And the 3rd option is to replant towards grape varieties that are so-called ‘late-ripening’ varieties, which is a big advantage as they carry the ‘delayed maturation’ standard in their DNA. In this sense worth mentioning is our research project about ancestral grape varieties that we started 30 years ago. This project was actually set-up to bring back forgotten varieties out of a sort of cultural heritage responsibility; almost an exercise in viticultural archaeology. As a lucky side-result, we also found that some of these forgotten grape varieties are late-ripening varieties and moreover some of them turned out to be very resistant to drought and heat.

Grape variety collection at Familia Torres Vineyards

So, all in all these are all of course very helpful adaption measures, but at the same time we all need to drastically reduce our emissions and help to de-carbonize our planet. Not only action is needed from governments and companies to fight against climate change with clear and ambitious goals, but we all should also contribute as individuals. By making lifestyle changes, as small as they might seem, everyone can contribute; for example, using less air conditioning/heating, changing to LED light bulbs, or eating less meat, is something everyone can start today. Every company should have a decarbonization program in place, but I think here the key is to work together.

Therefore at the beginning of this year Jackson Family Wines and Torres started a new initiative called International Wineries for Climate Action to make the collaboration between wineries regarding climate change easier.

The idea is that IWCA will be a trigger for other wineries to join and accelerate or to start the implementation of carbon-emissions-reduction-programs. We are now 6 months later, and it is great to see that already several wineries are in process of becoming an IWCA Applicant or a full Members.

I very much hope that the vision of the biologist Dr. Jamie Goode (who spoke at the Familia Torres Climate Change Course in April of this year) will be a reality in a few years:

“to make carbon emissions socially inacceptable, whether they are produced by companies or individuals.”

Dr. Jamie Goode

This certainly involves a change of paradigm, but here the question is: would consumers accept a considerable tax increase on fossil products? Would that stop growth?

The Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino would like to express its gratitude to Snr. Miguel A. Torres for providing GOCV members with this compelling insight into the essential and urgent issue of climate change and its impact within the international wine industry.