Thursday, 14 July 2016

14.7.16 Sherry Prepares for Climate Change

The Bodega san Ginés was the scene of a conference yesterday on what the Sherry trade must do to confront climate change. Pau Roca, president of the Federación Española del Vino (FEV) outlined the advantages of the “Wineries for Climate Protection” certification. This seal guarantees consumers that all stages in the production of a wine have fulfilled environmental standards.

Evaristo Babé, president of the Brandy Consejo and Fedejerez, and Beltrán Domecq, president of the Sherry Consejo, both sent a clear message to the trade. Babé said that “climate change is a reality and we, both as people and as companies, must take decisions conscientiously. It is a fact that the cultivation of the vine is going to change in function with changes in the environment.” But he didn’t wish to predict catastrophe as there are many possibilities for change in the face of unforeseeable consequences.

Beltrán Domecq didn’t mince his words saying “temperatures of only two degrees more would change everything and present real problems. The ripening period would be shortened and quality would without doubt be affected. We must observe what happens.” Referring to the EU targets for emissions reduction and energy efficiency for 2020, he underlined that “due to the importance of the climate change problem, measures need to be taken right now, and so we are already thinking about what needs to be done.”

The notion of sustainability certification arose back in 2011 as a result of the “Declaration of Barcelona” where Consejos Reguladores from all over Spain launched a “green plan” to bring about more sustainable production and making the seal a guarantee for consumers. “In the last five years we have experienced a cultural change, and we are much more aware of the situation but back then we really had no idea where climate change would lead us,” said Babé. In fact the sustainability of the bodegas could be achieved by action on four fundamental fronts: reduction of CO2 emissions, the use of renewable and more efficient energy, reduction of residues and more efficient use of water.

One of the experts present yesterday to outline the risks of climate change was José Ramón Lissarrague, an agricultural engineer and researcher at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He explained that temperature is the biggest controller of plant behaviour, “the vine plant and its grapes are highly sensitive to temperature which acts as a biological regulator. The warming climate goes beyond the vine’s requirements and the process starts to go backwards giving various negative results such as poor use of water and poor growth. This unbalances the composition of the grape and causes losses in production efficiency.”

He went on to say that “we can try to stem the problem and maintain our traditions and values at the same time since we have a large range of tools at our disposal. We can study the best places for cultivation, we can ensure good root growth and we can work to improve pruning and fertilisation. We must move to precision agriculture which does not waste resources and we must change the management of the productive cycle of the vine.

At the closure of the conference, the director general of the Junta’s agricultural department, Rosa Isabel Ríos asked for collaboration in this difficult task saying that “she hoped the 1.8 billion euros granted to Spanish viticulture by the EU would be wisely used”. The money is conditional on the use of the most sustainable methods and tools. “In Andalucía we are on the way” she said while also praising the initiative of the conference to apply the brakes to climate change.

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