Sun 27 Apr 2008
… but really, wine tends to take a truck or a ship.
A story in The New York Times Business Day section yesterday (Saturday, April 26), headlined “Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?” discusses the carbon-imprint of transporting food-stuffs around the world in an era in which Americans and Europeans consume fruit and vegetables from a variety of far-flung countries; thus, the notion of seasonality becomes obsolete and the carbon footprint expands.
For a chart depicting a comparison of carbon dioxide emissions, the story uses a bottle of wine shipped to New York from the Loire Valley in France and a bottle shipped to New York from the Napa Valley in California. Guess which shipment produces the larger carbon footprint?
That’s right, the bottle of wine send to New York from California produces more carbon dioxide.
Here’s the comparison:
At the cultivation level, there’s little difference, 210 grams of carbon dioxide per bottle in the Loire Valley, 214 in the Napa Valley; this involved the energy used in managing the vineyard. The fermentation process, which naturally results in carbon dioxide, is the same for both regions: 109 grams of carbon dioxide per bottle. Also the same is the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the operation of the winery in energy: 132 grams each. In the “Containers” category, however, the Napa Valley pulls ahead, mainly because the barrels that most wineries use to age their wines have to be transported from France; the comparison is Loire Valley 473, Napa Valley 633.
The biggest discrepancy, though, lies in transportation. Shipping one bottle of wine from California to New York produces 1,426 grams of carbon dioxide, because the wine is transported by truck. Sending a bottle of wine from the Loire Valley, on the other hand, produces only 447 grams of carbon dioxide, because most of the transportation occurs on a container ship.
The total is 1,371 grams of carbon dioxide to ship a bottle of wine from the Loire Valley to New York, 2,514 grams to send a bottle of wine from California to New York, almost twice as much.
Obviously New Yorkers who are thinking green ought to drink French wine, or European wine generally, and avoid wine from the West Coast. Californians should eschew French wines, not out of patriotism but because those wines have to be shipped from the East Coast by truck. Of course if New Yorkers really want to be green, they would drink the wines of their own state, a possibility that just about everybody in New York finds incomprehensible. You’ll find New York state wines on the lists of restaurants in New York City as often as you might find wines from Ukraine. Part of that problem, aside from snobbery and provincialism, is that the wines of New York state, particularly from the premium wineries on Long Island, which make very good wine indeed, tend to be more expensive than their counterparts from the West Coast, even factoring in the shipping expense.
As for those of us in the great heartland of the United States of America, we’ll just have to pay the price for the diminished dollar and the costs of transportation and the carbon footprints left all over the landscape by bottles of wine and the dismal future of humankind. Not to mention the tomatoes shipped by truck from Mexico.