“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





12 January 2009



Solving The Carbon Footprint Crisis
While Keeping The Booze Flowing

Bacchus only knows just how far The Wine Supply Chain Council is willing to go to ensure wine drinkers make less of a mess of the global environment, but they’re having another talkfest in Melbourne next week.

The shocking condition of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin, with the cruel extant fact of the death of its estuary, is partly the work of Australian wine drinkers determinedly demanding cheap squirt; partly the work of the thirsty who buy from the humungous booze mongers of Britain and the USA.

It is certainly partly the work of some of the winemakers of Clare and the Barossa, who built their own private pipelines to import salt water from the Murray to guarantee sufficient irrigation supplies to maintain their manufactory of industrial quality wine for export.

Such water inevitably increases the salinity of the ground to which it is applied.

The WSCC was devised to address such issues, but tends to approach the problem from the “must have” point of view, as in “these markets exist, they must have our wine; ergo we must work out how to get it there”.

The meeting follows one held in South Africa last year and will set the cooperative research agenda for the next 3-5 years to benefit wine producers.

Experts from around the world will talk about how to ensure consumers receive the best wines possible” the WSCC says.

The meeting on January 13-16 includes 25 industry leaders, academics and researchers. Australian representatives at the workshop include researchers from CSIRO and Monash University and senior managers from some of Australia's wine companies including Yalumba and Orlando Wines.”

(Orlando is part of Pernod-Ricard. It is not Australian.)

CSIRO mathematical and information sciences research leader, Dr Simon Dunstall, said one of the major issues for discussion will be how to reduce the environmental impacts of the wine and grape juice industry's transport task.

"Transport is a significant consideration in Australia, particularly the carbon footprint involved in moving wine over long distances," he said.

Consumers are quickly becoming directly concerned with such issues, and some wineries are already taking advantage of this.

I have, for example the first bottles from Zilzie’s Bulloak Carbon Neutral wine brand on my tasting bench now. From irrigated Murray Basin vineyards, these retail at $10 in Adelaide, a full day’s drive from Zilzie.

London is a lot further.

Surely the best way of easing the carbon footprint is to grow grapes closer to the markets which want the wine. If Texas can produce wines as fine as Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and perhaps Coonawarra (see articles below), then why shouldn’t Texas be producing such fruit for the US market?

A hint of the future lies in Fosters new three-year contract with the Indian wine company, Indage Vinters, (formerly Champagne Indage), to package Fosters’ wine in Britain.

This wine will be shipped from Australia, South America and South Africa in tank, and packaged in the marketplace which drinks it. This reduces the footprint of such ridiculous mechanisms as taking bottles from Italy to Australia, filling them up, then taking them to Britain for sale.

While the UK drinks over 110 million cases a year, and drinking more and more of it at home, the feverish pressure there to supply ever-cheaper booze is forcing such Australia producers to chop costs.

Similar pressure in India will see more of that country’s booze made there.

Since Stephen Hickinbotham worked a consultant to the Indian government in the early ’eighties, it has been apparent that India can easily produce sufficient wine to supply its fledgeling market.

Given the water supplies, the same thing can be said of China.

One wonders just how the WSCC committee can flex its direction to suit such massive collisions of the booze world’s tectonic plates.

Topics the Council has discussed include: tracking temperature changes of wine as it is shipped around the world; improving order management processes; and, exploring the finding that 99% of wine currently made in the United States came from states that voted Democrat(!).

Dunstall's team uses a branch of mathematics called 'operations research' to simulate and optimise supply chains in a range of industries. It recently developed a “grape maturity forecasting system” which is being used in Australia and New Zealand to estimate when grapes are ready to harvest.

This was not much use in the harvest of 2008: we shall soon see how well it works this vintage, which is upon us.


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