About the only topic other than COVID that has dominated our wine world this summer is fire. Fires that have devastated wine regions around the world. “Once in a generation” fires that are becoming our annual norm. Heartbreaking fires that are destroying livelihoods, wreaking havoc on our cherished wine lands. Fires that are an undeniable symptom of extreme weather brought on by climate change.
While we have sadly become accustomed to hearing about fires tearing up viticultural areas in Northern California and the West Coast—including last year when Napa and Sonoma fell victim to two of the largest wildfires in history—what struck me this summer was the conflagration devastation experienced in Provence, the capital of our beloved rosé world.
Many French wineries have been struck by the worst fires the French wine industry has experienced in over a decade compounded with what has already been one of the most challenging growing seasons ever. Remember the not one, but two, “once in a generation” frosts France experienced this Spring?
The wildfires that have swept through parts of the Var region in Provence along France’s southeastern coast were believed to have been caused by a tossed cigarette. But a dry summer combined with extreme heat and strong Mistral winds rendered the region particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, the impact on the overall 2021 harvest is expected to be minimal, but for those 73 wineries and 5 cooperatives affected, the short and long-term effects could be devastating.
Provence have proven once again that climate change is real and these types of events will be more frequent and more extreme. Vineyards have always been the “canary in the cage” with respect to climate change; the tip of the spear for our greater environmental concerns. Those of us in the wine community have known for decades that climate change was occurring.
So what can we do to help?
Steps to help mitigate these terrible events. Read your wine labels closely and seek out wines that incorporate sustainable practices no matter how small. And if you need yet another reason to justify your obsession with rosé, support your favorite Provencal producers by stocking up. You will be helping to provide financial stability to wineries that must now factor not only global pandemics in their business operations, but also global warming.
Salud to sustainability.