“. . .His company now owns more than 1300 hectares of vineyards. He is one of the pioneer growers of international varieties in his native country, although in recent years, he is on much to re-establish plantations of the country’s native varieties. . . . He is passionately concerned about the environment and global warming. And he has attempted to saveguard company’s future by planting a series of high altitude vineyards. Next year he will be 70 and he said he will retire. . . . He’s cramped so much into his life so far and we’re sure he will continue to influence the world of wine for many years to come. Ladies and Gentlement, please show your appreciation for Miguel Torres’s Lifetime Achivement”
said Tim Atkin MW, during the International Wine Challenge Awards in 2010. It is impossible to be unaware of Torres family and their contributions to the wine world once you step into this business. When I watched this video in 2013, Tim’s statements were not new to me. (well, in 2010, I was just an engineering student who had nothing to do with wine but drinking– so please understand the delay:-)). But there was one thing specifically remained in my mind: “Miguel Torres’s passion for environment and global warming. “
Few days ago, once I stepped into Penedès region, my first stop was Bodegas Torres. I was familiar with many of their wines as they are mostly available in many different countries. However, I was more interested in their program called Torres & Earth (www.torresearth.com) created in 2007. Although, protecting the environment was always a crucial part of their strategy, it become more important when they witnessed an increase of 1 °C in the average temperature inPenedès over the past 40 years. Compared to vintages 20 years ago, they realized that they started harvesting 10 days before. Therefore, since they started this program, the wine estate invested around 10 million euros in projects focusing on renewable energy, co-efficient transport, water-use optimization and CO2 reduction. They have also contributed to environmental research projects in Spain and internationally. So, lets have a look at these projects individually:
Bodegas Torres promotes renewable energy to minimise the CO2 emission. Their winery in Pac de Penedès has 12,000 m2 of solar array that enables them to cover around 10% of their energy requirement. They also use solar panel to produce hot water for the bottling line. The winery also invested in a biomass boiler in 2012. The boiler is used to recycle organic matter produced during winemaking. It reduces electrical consumption by 10% and the gas consumption by 85%.
Once you arrive in Bodegas Torres, you see a huge pool on the right side of the main entrance. This pool has a capactiy to hold 11,000,000 liters of rainwater which is collected to be used at the winery. This accounts for 10% of winery’s water consumption. The winery also has a biological plant to treat waste water of 1200 cubic meters per day to be reused.
In order to reduce CO2, the winery insulated its steel tanks. Kati Jauhiainen, who accompanied us during the visit brought us to Waltraud Cellar which was built to save energy by creating storage facilities underground. The wine estate also reduced the bottle weight by 17% since 2008. This seems like a very small change but actually more than 50% the carbon footprint in the winery is due to glass so it saves a lot of energy.
Eco-efficiency in Transport
Many big wineries use train transport for visitors in the winery which makes the whole thing very touristic. But here in Torres, they use an electric-solar train and it becomes attractive even for wine professionals They also use an electric van for wine deliveries and they are slowly replacing the cars of their representatives with fuel-efficient ones.
Forest Protection and Biodiversity
Torres also participates in forest protection projects in Spain and Chile. The respect co-existing plants and use environmental friendly products in their vineyards. They try to increase biodiversity by using plant cover between vines.
There are also other on-going R&D&I projects at Torres. For example, one of their experimental study is to set CO2 levels using an algae bed. With this project, the team aims to use the CO2 which results from fermentation for photosynthetic microorganisms. These microorganisms use this CO2 to produce organic matter. The estate also participates in a project with INNOVINE financed by EU. Here, the goal is to discover new agricultural methods that can be solutions to climate change and search for solutions to increase grape quality in accordance with environmental and economic concerns.
The wine estate also focused on how to adapt their vineyards to on-going changes. Their main concern is to delay the maturation of the grapes. As a solution, they reduced the distance between vines. They started using rootstocks with different drought tolerace and tendency to delay maturation. They also started rediscovering the traditional grape varieties that survived during all these changes. They planted new vineyards at an elevation of 950 meters as an experiment.
As we can see, Torres has really been putting their efforts to fight climate change and has a significant impact on other wineries in their region. Today, Wineries for Climate Protection is an active non-profit organization in Spain and (http://www.wineriesforclimateprotection.com) provides guidelines to wineries that are interested in making changes towards sustainability. They also organize seminars to increase awareness which I find very inspiring. I think the real question is, how do we increase these types of organizations internationally? There are already many of other wineries working on similar projects but obviously more of them could invest in such projects like Torres. Wineries in different sizes can actually spend more effort in accordance with their budget because small changes cumulate and starts making a real difference. I see on many winery websites that they produce sustainable wines but one rarely sees concrete examples. Here, we had lots of them and maybe it’s time for more wineries to take action to fight climate change, what do you think?