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MY BOOKS ON AMAZON
  • Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    by L. J. Johnson-Bell
  • Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Home Cellar Guide Hb
    Home Cellar Guide Hb
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Great Wine Tours of the World
    Great Wine Tours of the World
    Barnes and Noble Books
  • The Wine Collector's Handbook
    The Wine Collector's Handbook
    by Linda Johnson
  • De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    by Johnson-Bell Linda

  • Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    by LINDA JOHNSON-BELL

 

Thursday
May022019

Wine's Water Footprint

 

We hear a lot about carbon footprints, but water's footprint is less often discussed and examined. This is a danergous omission, as water is essential to every Earth systerm. Water use is measured in terms of a water footprint. The water footprint of a product (good or service) is the volume of fresh water used to produce the product, summed over the various steps of the production chain. ‘Water use’ is measured in terms of water volumes consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted. The ‘water footprint’ includes three components: consumptive use of rainwater (green water), consumptive use of water withdrawn from groundwater or surface water (blue water) and pollution of water (grey water).  

As we know, water is used in every process of wine production. AND In sites where irrigation is legally practiced, this is its greatest use of water. 83% of the surface under vine is irrigated in the New World as opposed to 10% in the Old World -  Institut national de la recherche agronomique (Montpellier.inra.fr). It is the variables inherent in the practice of irrigation; from country to country; region to region; and micro-climate to micro-climate, plant to plant - that renders determining wine’s water footprint, so difficult.

That said - Incorporating all water sources, the Water Footprint Network reports that it takes an average of 110 litres of water for a 125 ml glass of wine. In drier regions, the average is higher (Australia = 120 litres and California = 131 litres) (WFN, 2014).

It has to be mentioned here that these estimates are challenged by many New World oenologists. They believe that the Dutch researchers at the WFN, failed to consider the higher yields in California and other non-European vineyards, arguing that there is “more wine for the water buck”. And in drought-ridden southern Spain, where limited irrigation is now permitted, researchers argue that the water footprint alone is not a viable enough indicator with which to measure water’s “economic productivity”.

Now … this shared argument overlooks the illogical attempt of justifying increasing irrigation with higher yields and thus, greater economic profitability, when higher yields due to increased irrigation will ultimately lead to lower quality and lower economic profitability in the context of water scarcity. Any profit initially afforded by the greater yields will eventually be consumed.

Linda Johnson-Bell

 


Tuesday
Apr302019

The Number One Victim of Climate Change is Water

“The number one victim of Climate Change is water. Either there is too much or too little and at the wrong time”.
                            - Johan Rockström, “Water Matters”, Nobel Week Dialogue 2018

If climate can be likened to a person’s personality, then weather is their mood … And moodiness is the new norm. The UN confirms that “higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are projected to affect availability and distribution of rainfall, snow melt, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality.”

Water is the bloodstream of our biosphere and without it, we cannot maintain a stable eco-system and with a rising demand and a dwindling supply, all eyes are on the agricultural sector, as, according to the OECD, it is the largest and most inefficient user of freshwater (70% of global extraction).

 

Where does viticulture fit into this picture?

  • Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, 75 percent of which is stored in glaciers
  • Contemporary global water demand has been estimated at about 4600 km3 per year and projected to increase by 20%-30% to between 5,500 and 6,000 km3 per year by 2050 . (Burek et al 2016),  (Almar Water Solutions)
  • With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people. (UNCCD)
  • A third of the world’s biggest groundwater systems are already in distress. (Richey et al., 2015)
  • Only about 15 percent of the world’s crops are irrigated, but this tiny group is responsible for 70 percent of the world’s blue water (freshwater) withdrawals”. (Waterwise 2007) (FAO)
  • But global irrigated area has increased more than six fold over the last century, from approximately 40 million hectares in 1900 to more than 260 million hectares (Postel, 1999; FAO, 1999) and irrigated areas increase almost 1% per year (Jensen, 1993) 
  • 80% of the world’s vineyards are irrigated

 

 

Tuesday
Apr302019

Linda Johnson-Bell, Session #7, Water Management, CCL Porto 2019

Tuesday
Apr302019

Al Gore: Our Keynote Speaker at Climate Change Leadership Porto 2019

Tuesday
Apr302019

Climate Change Leadership Porto Conference Interview with TWACCI's Johnson-Bell, by Nick Breeze

Monday
Apr292019

ICPS Paris Conference: The Psychology of Wine Tasting

In March, I enjoyed a day on a discussion panel at the International Convention of Psychological Science held at The Palais des Congrès de Paris. My fellow panalists were Charles Spence of the Univesrsty of Oxford, Maria Del Rosario Caballero Rodriguez, Profesora Titular De Universidad, Spain and Franck Ramage, head of the Wine Department at the Cordon Blue, Paris.

FROM THE CONFERENCE:

Objective: To create a “fun” but informative event where attendees could taste some wine, while also gaining a deeper insight in the field of wine appreciation and related psychological mechanisms from both scientific and professional perspectives. Featuring a short list of wines such as Château de France, which will also be available to conference attendees at the evening reception. 

Some of the key questions the panel will be addressing involve: Tasting is defined as a sensory examination and evaluation of wine. What are the different stages and what are the psychological mechanisms involved in these stages? We have all noticed in our daily life that wine tasting is a personal experience. Thus, the appreciation of a given wine may differ between people. How do wine makers take these individual differences in wine appreciation into account? What does science make of individual differences in wine tasting? Finally, are there cultural differences on the appreciation of wine? If so, how can we explain these differences?

Conference Abstract: “Drinking wine has been part of human culture since antiquity and many of its psychological effects are since well-known. Though the practice of wine tasting is ancient, modern science – and notably cognitive science – provided a deeper insight on psychological processes involved in wine tasting. In addition, professionals of wine use scientific insights to produce, present and advertise wine and an ever more complex and specialised terminology to describe wine tasting. The objective of this panel is to bring experts together from science, humanities and the professional wine world to discuss the current state-of-the-art in wine tasting "  

Friday
Nov092018

Join us at the Climate Change Leadership Conference in Porto 2019

The sustainability solutions needed in viticulture to ensure future wine quality, soil quality and water conservation can also be applied to other luxury crops and even the major staple crops. Wine is not a niche topic, but rather, the perfect poster child for getting true mitigation practices accepted and in place. I'll be moderating the Water Management Panel... please join us. President Al Gore has accepted to be the Keynote Speaker.

Promo - CCLP2019 from Um Segundo Filmes on Vimeo.

Friday
Nov092018

Judging the Welsh Wine Awards 2018 at Llenarch Vineyard

A wonderful 3rd year judging the Welsh Wine Awards with fellow judges Sue Tolsen and Dylan Rowlands. Robb Merchant, Chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association put on another great event thanks to the help of Ryan of the stunning Llanerch Vineyard. And a special thanks to our special guests, The Rt. Hon. Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas AM, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport and Welsh Wine Ambassador Dr. Norma Barry as well as members of the team from Visit Wales. And the greatest thanks go to all of the growers who participated. You get more delicious every year!

Saturday
Sep152018

EAT ORGANIC? DRINK ORGANIC! Oxford Wine Class

EAT ORGANIC?  DRINK ORGANIC!

WINE CLASS

Do you like your eggs free-range, your chicken corn-fed and your vegetables, organic? Then you probably would like to apply that same preference to your wines. Whether for environmental reasons or for your health, or both, the “trends” in green wines have firmly taken hold. But are you confused by all of the hype? Would you like to know the difference between wines that are “natural”, “sustainable”, “green”, “bio-dynamic”, “organic”, “vegetarian”, “eco-friendly”, “dry-farmed” and “carbon neutral”? You will not be surprised to know that these are not new practices … just new names given to the old ways of making wine properly. As with the food industry, the wine industry, too, has succumbed to the allure of the mass market and technical convenience. Let award-wining wine writer, judge and author, Linda Johnson-Bell, answer all of your questions as you sample a few examples of these wines.

Linda is the CEO of Oxford’s Wine and Climate Change Institute and her most recent book is “WINE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Winemaking in A New World.”

Monday, October 22nd at 7 – 9pm

Upper Wolvercote, Oxford

£20 per person including wine

Reservations: linda@thewinelady.com


Thursday
Jul052018

Dry lawns, dry farming, and wine ...

Wednesday
Jun272018

BLINK DRUNK: Wine or Water - my Indiegogo campaign

Sunday
May202018

OLD VINES are not NEW. Grow up “trend-making” New World!

As I have sat back and watched this wine industry evolve over the past 25 years (I started my career very young!)… it never fails to amaze me how often New World “trends” are just things that quality Old World wine makers have ALWAYS done. It’s like watching teenagers ignore the advice of their experienced parents and go off to make all of the same mistakes. When they finally figure out that perhaps their parents were correct, they act as though they have “invented” the answer. I want to scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

The latest trend to piss me off is South Africa’s OLD VINE PROJECT and its accompanying certification programme. The vines have to be at least 35 years old. For xxxx sake, that’s nothing in Europe – it’s a baby. Do these people ever travel and educate themselves? I remember my first trip to Napa and watching 20 year-old vines being pulled because they were “too old” and were not producing enough fruit for the yield –hungry mentality.  I was horrified, as my classic education had taught me that the vines were only just getting interesting at 20. Like people, actually.

The most frustrating thing is that the Old World producers have quietly been going about their business and the consumer has no idea what really is entailed in quality wine production, so if some flash New World wine association comes along and does a PR-job on how smaller yields are better, or how organic, natural wines are set to take the world by storm, or how they are now planting on hillsides and not in valleys, or are favouring indigenous yeasts, or are dry farming, etc., the poor consumer, understandably, gives all the credit to the New World teen-age trend-setter. Ack! I just wish that  they would hurry and grow up.

 http://www.winesofsa.co.uk/news/440/world-first-as-a-new-certification-seal-is-launched-by-the-old-vine-project/ 

 

Sunday
May202018

THE ORGANOLEPTIC ORACLE

In much the same way that climatologists follow the grapevine because of its sensitivity to climate changes, I consider wine to be the “Organoleptic Oracle”. I am certain that viticulture is the perfect “poster child” for transitioning other crops, both luxury and staple, to embrace and transition to dry farming. If it can work in this sector, the methods could be super-imposed and adapted to others. The more I research, the more I am learning that there is almost no crop that cannot be sustained with a minimum winter rainfall and under desert-farming conditions – the issue is always the need for obtaining higher yields than this will allow. Still, I think that the wine sector is a good place to start because wine is a known and “safe” industry to all international stakeholders. It’s a “famous” product. There also exists valuable historic climate data recorded by winemakers and a strong, coherent network between the players (producers, shippers, retailers, etc.), not to mention all of the international marketing and media and communication structures that are already in place. Grape farmers already have experience in adaptation techniques for long-term resilience and on the whole, the industry has a strong sustainability mind set. The wine industry is also investment-friendly, possessing the magic trilogy of economic viability, technical possibility and political acceptability. It is an industry with a very long value-chain, which means that it offers more opportunities for adaptation products. And most importantly, it is a highly-visible, consumer market: wine producers must be seen to be taking action for reasons of brand protection. All of these factors make the wine industry a natural leader in the global struggle against climate change.

Tuesday
May012018

What is dry farming? Nothing new!

Dry farming is nothing new. It’s how European vineyards have always been farmed. When I tell a consumer that irrigation has always been illegal in the quality vineyards of France and Italy, they are shocked. Water usage and wine are not dots that consumers have ever connected or cared about.  Never mind that your glass of irrigated South African Chenin Blanc required more than 150 litres of precious freshwater to produce.  Dry Farming is not just simply “not irrigating”. There is more to it than that. There needs to be careful soil preparation so that the soils retain winter rainfall: only nine inches annually are required. We know that when we irrigate, we artificially increase the yields, decrease the wine quality, deplete and over-salinate the soils (look at Australia), and increase the plant’s vulnerability to climatic stress. This is because irrigated vines have shallow root masses whilst dry-farmed vines are forced to dig deeper to find water and nutrients – and taste – this is where “terroir” is found, by the way.

Irrigation is used primarily in the New World regions to increase yields. Period. In Napa Valley, spray irrigation systems were initially installed in the 1960s to combat winter frosts and were not really used throughout the growing season until the 1980s to coincide with the New World wine boom. The Californian wines that won the infamous Paris Tasting, were all dry farmed! There are still pockets of dry farmers in Napa, in South Africa’s Swartland, Chile, Lebanon – in fact, we know we can grow wine in the desert. More and more New World wine producers are transitioning to dry farming and letting the consumer assume that it is some new trend. It is not. It is the way in which quality wines have always been grown.

What worries me, is that now that the wine laws in Europe are loosening and irrigation is being allowed that we will see more of the Old World vineyards churning out New World yields. And perversely, as water legislation tightens and water supplies dry up in the New World, dry farming will become their norm and we will have a reversal of roles – how ironic. For there are plenty of European wine producers who would kill to be rid of the yield restrictions so that they could compete with international yields. But this is how the wine industry got into such a mess in the first place. It is time to create a level playing field- something Mother Nature seems to have already figured out.

Tuesday
Mar132018

Why am I picking on Wine?

You may ask why I am picking on wine and its water use, as surely there are crops that are far thirstier than the wine grape. There are. And I will cover those in later chapters. I could easily rant about the amount of water that is used to irrigate corn and other cereals that will then be fed to the animals we eat. The insanity of that sends me over the edge. Cotton, which relies on freshwater (or blue water) irrigation to rainfall (or green water), can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans. 73% of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land (WWF). But I have narrowed my focus to the use of precious freshwater (blue) supplies to irrigate luxury crops: tea, coffee, cacao, sugar, and wine. We don’t need these to live. And dry farmers across the world prove to us every harvest that the vine is a resilient beast that can survive on as little as 9 inches of winter rainfall if the soils have been prepared correctly and are of the right sort. Some soils are too porous. I am simply asking that we set out priorities straight and to find a way forward in which we can have our planet and drink it, too.

Where irrigation is legally practiced (mostly in the New World), this is the greatest blue water, or freshwater, use. And 83% of the New World wine regions are irrigated, where only 10% of the Old World is irrigated. But the use of irrigation in Europe risks increasing as legislation gets more lax, and as wine growers ignore and leave the appellation system in order to compete with international yields. There are some European producers who are thrilled to be able to irrigate and to compete with the international volume of production.  And when we place wine into the context of fruit - wine grapes are the most important fruit crop. There may be only 8 million global hectares planted, but its blue water use is disproportionate to its production value. And all of the “foot-print” data is so difficult to gather because wine’s blue-water footprint is unique in that it varies dramatically from country to country, from region to region, and even from vineyard to vineyard.

Trying to convince the entire industry that dry farming is the future, is a fascinating but challenging goal, as the industry has so many factions. In any one region, and Napa is a great example of this, we can find die-hard dry-farmers who insist that the European ideal of terroir can only be achieved by dry farming, pitted against those who insist that we can manipulate nature and still make a great wine. The great John Williams of the iconic Frog’s Leap Vineyard in Napa says that by dry farming, he saves 10 million gallons of water a year, or, 64,000 gallons saved per acre!