Old World Bordeaux raises the bar on environmental protection and corporate responsibility – Advice Eating

Generations of winemakers have studied in Bordeaux’s famous châteaux, steeped in centuries-old winemaking traditions. The various wine-growing regions in Bordeaux contain 65 separate AOCs, or Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées, with wines as iconic as their old-world origins. As in the rest of the world, environmental factors play a large role in everything from pruning to planting to harvesting, with recent fluctuations in environmental factors making the need for progress impossible to ignore. The best wines come from vines that are so stressed that the sugars in the grape slowly develop. Accentuate the vines just right and your Grand Crus will speak for themselves. Stress the vines too much and the grapes and possibly the vineyard will be forgotten over time.

The Bordeaux Climate Summit convened in late 2021 to open lines of communication between the many stakeholders. But the environmental conference was only part of a multi-pronged approach to salvaging the culture and heritage of one of France’s most prolific wine-growing regions.

While sales of Bordeaux wines in the US are trending up across all styles; Red wines, dry white wines, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines, there is a surprising twist. While red Bordeaux wines remain the most popular choice overall, dry white Bordeaux wines are gaining in popularity. In fact, the United States is now the most important market for dry white Bordeaux. How popular is popular? Around 5.2 million bottles sold annually. No wonder for a region with everything from prestige labels to affordable everyday bottles, pampering AOCs in the Médoc and beyond such as Pauillac, St Estèphe, Saint Julien, Margaux, Graves and Saint-Émilion.

While recognizing some of the region’s most popular varietals, it goes without saying that a good Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc is welcome at any dinner party. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Especially since the market in the USA is growing. The latest figures boast that “the 2021 results represented the highest 12-month sales increase of Bordeaux wines to the United States since 1985.” Also compared to the peaks in 2020.

“We are delighted with our sales results in the US,” said Bernard Farges, President of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB). Growth across such a wide range of Bordeaux wines.”

As US interest grows, come new challenges for a region grappling with environmental issues largely beyond its control. Mostly attributed to a newfound awareness of affordable quality in the 2018 and 2019 Bordeaux vintage boom. These vintages were the result of years of sustainability implementation and strategic incorporation of sustainability practices. As of autumn 2021, “more than 75% of Bordeaux vineyards are certified as sustainable, an all-time high that has resulted in positive recognition from retailers and consumers.”

Much of this quest for sustainability is done through CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility. Some of these practices are as small as grass and cover crops spreading across the vineyard. Nitrite-producing plants balance the macro and microclimate within a biodiverse system with a longer-term goal of agroforestry. Much effort has been expended to reintroduce the natural insecticides and pesticides in the form of bats and small predators such as snakes. In fact, the bat program has been incredibly successful in reintroducing bats into a country where they previously thrived.

“The Bordeaux winery is in the midst of a real ecological revolution. In 2021, 75% of Bordeaux’s vineyards have a certified environmental approach (organic, high environmental value, Terra Vitis, Demeter, etc.), compared to 35% in 2014. The winery is also an exemplary center of excellence, hosting scientific facilities and engineering researchers ( ISVV, INRAE, etc.) and startups, all incubators and sources of innovation.”

While this is just the beginning of a long road for the wine industry in France, the Bordeaux region hopes to serve as a model for winemakers everywhere.

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