Modern winemaking has brought many apparent improvements to wine. In the past, while developing a reputation, California tried to emulate French winemaking, which was based largely on time-honored winemaking traditions. But California became a frontier for modern winemaking techniques, and at some point ventured out on its own. Now many wineries worldwide, French wineries included, are adopting modern methods to produce wines different from those of the past, with a taste that many consumers have now come to view as superior. Wine preferences are influenced by many things, and many still debate whether modern wines are superior or whether the popularity of the modern taste is just another wine trend. But one thing is certain—modern winemaking techniques as well as grape growing practices have increased the ecological footprint of a glass of wine.
Four years ago, I planted an experimental vineyard at Dancing Rabbit with the idea of having a small winery that would make sustainably grown organic wine. I knew it would be a long road to the time when I was able to produce wine for sale. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve learned a lot since then about what I’m up against in trying to grow grapes organically at DR, and in trying to make wine given the limitations placed on our ways of doing things in an ecovillage. It’s good to live in a place with these limitations though, because I would like to make every stage of grape growing and winemaking have as little impact as possible on the environment. Wine was made and enjoyed for thousands of years without the use of fossil fuel. Granted, not all the chemistry of winemaking or of agriculture was understood for the majority of that history, but modern techniques were developed with the crutch of the abundant energy of fossil fuel, and this abundance is not going to be available much longer. By using our understanding of science and technology both past and present, we can develop ways of making wine that are both superior and have less impact on the planet.