By Barbara Barrielle
This article is part of the Bold Predictions series.
“Wine people are interested in surviving and succeeding and will work within the natural boundaries they are given,” says Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica. He has his finger on the pulse of the wine industry and is intimately aware of the issues facing vintners, and he is confident that wineries will stay ahead of the effects of climate change and be able to adapt. “They share and steal practices, collaborate with each other and will help to spread good practices.”
Trezise has been in the wine business representing, organizing, and promoting the wine industry for most of his career, but his belief that the wine business will stay ahead of climate change and adapt readily is his own. WineAmerica advocates on public policy and acts as a “lean mean lobbying machine” to increase and improve the wine industry and wine business. Their top issue today is getting the temporary excise tax reduction made permanent. “Climate change is currently not the focus of WineAmerica, but many suspect it will become a focus soon,” said Trezise. “It is happening more quickly than predicted and at a scary rate.”
Winery people are gamblers, Trezise points out, but they know the odds pretty well and approach the business intellectually. This is already a business model that takes a long time to come to fruition with plantings taking years to mature and then there is the production of the wine, the aging and, eventually, if all goes well, the sale of the finished product…years after the project started as an idea and some vines.
“The people in this industry have strategic vision. They are special in the wine business and, by the nature of the business, have a long-range mentality,” says Trezise. “The nature of our industry means we are unique and there is a natural collaboration of people in the wine industry. They are engineers and marketers and are aware of changes that need to be made both in viticulture and sales.”
There are also the traditional viticultural and enology schools of research at places like Cornell University, UC Davis, Washington State and Fresno State that continue to do research into different grape varieties with an eye to a changing climate.
Trezise notes the cold, hearty varieties that are growing in places like Minnesota and northern climates. “These areas are already in tune with the climate because they have to deal with what has been given to them,” says Trezise. He also points out that climate change and its possible effects have seen vintners in Napa looking at other varieties in the event that the Cabernet Sauvignon the area has become famous for – and which they can charge a premium price upwards of $100 a bottle – becomes less viable in a changing climate.
“People in the wine industry have passion and commitment. They are bold people who laugh, drink, and enjoy life,” says Trezise. “They help each other out sharing wine making techniques, vineyard management, and secrets, pretty unheard of in other industries.“
Sustainability programs like the ones initiated by The Wine Institute, Oregon, Lodi, and Long Island also go in the right direction and mobilize wineries to think about water conservation, waste management, pesticides, and raising healthy vines in a coherent way. Vintners work together because the promotion of sustainability is good for everyone and not just a marketing gimmick.
“There is no industry like the wine industry where people help each other, and this is evident in the approach to climate change,” says Trezise. “With these factors, we are going to be just fine.”
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