Putting water in my own wine boycott

Events have conspired, the plot has thickened and now I call on you to say “non” to only one-third of Beaujolais Nouveau this year!

As you may recall, last week I asked you to ditch Beajolais Nouveau this year because of the high carbon footprint of the wine. The rush to bring this proto-wine to the world’s shops on the same day, November 20 this year, means that airfreight is commonly used, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions of the wine by at least fourfold for New York and many times more to places like San Francisco, Santiago, and Tokyo.

Word floated in to the Dr. Vino tower that major changes were afoot this year in Beaujolais with this year’s Nouveau. So I picked up the phone and called France (at the low rate of 2.3 cents per minute). First up, I spoke with Inter Beaujolais, a regional trade authority, where I learned that Beaujolais Nouveau last year had a volume of about 48 million bottles, about a third of the region’s production. Further, the Nouveau for EU destinations is not permitted to leave the region until November 13 this year, giving it a week to get places like Amsterdam and Athens. But non-EU destinations were given a special extra week this year and could leave the EU on November 6. Could it really get to store shelves in New York City by November 20?

To find out I called Georges Duboeuf, the largest shipper of Beaujolais Nouveau with around three-quarters of the Beaujolais Nouveau market. Yann Bourigault, who runs exports for North America, told me that, indeed, things are different this year. In July, Duboeuf had to set a price for the wine with the American importer, W. J. Deutsch. At that time the dollar was at $1.52 to the euro (it’s now 1.25) and with the softening economy, they made the call that they American consumer would not support the extra two dollars per bottle for the 2008 Beuajolais Nouveau that air freight would add.

So they lobbied the French authorities including the Minister of Agriculture and even Christine Lagarde, the Minister of Finance to be able to move the shipping date up to provide greater time for transportation via the cheaper (and greener) sea freight. Bourigault said that the wine had already been bottled and trucks were picking it up now to take it to the port where it would clear Customs and be loaded onto a ship for Boston, leaving November 6 as the new regulations allow. Barring storms or a French port strike, wine should arrive in Boston on November 13 where it will clear American Customs and then have trucks take the cases on the final leg of the journey to stores and restaurants. They can’t get it everywhere by sea and Bourigault estimated that about one-third of this year’s BN will still be airfreighted around the world, down from two-thirds last year. Still, that accounts for over a million cases of proto-wine that is flying around the world.

So there you have it! Some blend of the recently enfeebled dollar and the crippling strength of the clarion call to ditch Beaujolais Nouveau from this web site have now reduced the King Kong sized carbon footprint of the wine down to mere Sasquatch. Some producers have been more intentional in their efforts, such as Boisset who will roll out ultralight plastic wine bottles this year for the first time. Consider yourself on notice, Nouveau, for next year. In case of the dollar rally holds, we’ll see if they continue with the lower carbon footprint shipping option.

With the ends closer to being justified, I’m putting water in my own wine boycott, diluting it to one-third strength! On November 20, I still urge you to try a local wine, which has the smallest carbon footprint (see the site Appellation America for learning about wines made near you). Or, if you’ve been there, drunk that near you, try a cru Beaujolais; it’s a better direction for the region to head and, thanks to the shipping, a fraction of the carbon footprint of the Nouveau–and a thousand times better tasting.

Image credit: “Local” was commissioned from the talented Alex Eben Meyer.

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20 Responses to “Putting water in my own wine boycott”

  1. That image would make a great t-shirt.

  2. I totally agree about the graphic making a great t-shirt for a great cause. Who designed the graphic?

  3. I tend not to drink this wine because it is so not special for the price point. The mature Villages offer some better flavors profiles and a good price point.

  4. To offset my Cru Beaujolais collection’s carbon footprint, I’ll gladly pass on the Beaujo Nou, and drink some locally grown and produced Marechal Foch Nouveau. I love good Beaujolais so much that Nouveau gives me the heebies. I also have nightmares of my days in retail spent trying to get rid of cases of OLD, icky BN in February or March.

    Thanks for the research!

  5. I applaud you, this time, for your more informed/informing post.

  6. I agree that we need to look the carbon footprint left by all the products we use and admire your attack on the unnecessary gimmick that is BN. However, carbon footprint is a complex issue. Let’s take BN as an example. We probably agree that the only reason that so much BN is produced and drunk is because of the hype about the release date – air freight has meant that producers can race the wine more quickly to market – if BN was now to arrive a week later much of the energy that has gone into growth, production and shipping would find its way to the drain (the market would eventually adjust but waste would be created for years in the meantime). In addition BN is shipped all over the world and whilst air freight on the surface can generate 150 times the amount of green house gases than ship, one must deduct the additional gases produced driving wine to port and then distributing wine across the length and bredth of each country by truck – airfreight has become much more direct and reaches markets for producers that were not accessable. I do agree however with giving BN producers a longer window to get the wine to market for the mystique of the release date – because without that – well what do they really have?

  7. Interesting about the Tshirt idea! I’ll check it out.

    Bill – thanks for coming back; glad you liked it this time.

    Sean – I considered those aspects. Here are some bullet points of my research on the carbon footprint of wine.

  8. […] Colman ha fatto un giro di telefonate per capire cosa succederà e sappiamo quanto lui abbia già scritto sul tema carbon footprint. Prima ha chiamato Inter […]

  9. Thanks for the response – one point I picked up on was how the green farming effort makes much less difference than transportation to the overall carbon footprint – yet many of California’s premium wineries continue to play the green card and yet ship in overweight bottles…..

  10. By the way, where are the printing plants of the books you publish? Where do they get the paper? What’s the carbon footprint on your books as opposed to Harlequin Readers? Should I only be buying local authors editing by local editors and published by local printers?

    Why don’t we just go back to the old politics of America First! Let’s boycott the rest of the world, build up trade barriers, organize embargoes, and finally go to war!


    A little more rational thought might be in order.

    By the way, give credit where credit is due. It was I who noted on your blog that Duboeuf was shipping by boat. So drink Duboeuf and strike a blow for the earth. But boycott Jean-Paul Brun and Domaine des Terres Dorées for their high carbon footprint!


  11. I think the petulant Joe Dressner needs to take a sip of the wine of his choice, to take the edge off. Perhaps while reading one of the Harlequin Romance novels he favors.

    Thanks, Tyler, for re-evaluating the facts and updating the site on the basis of research.

  12. Isn’t the point that I shouldn’t read a Harlequin Romance because it might have had a small carbon footprint than Tyler’s book or a novel by Ernest Hemingway or the latest Robert Parker book or anything else I might want to read?

    Why doesn’t the same hold true for wine?

  13. By the way, what’s your take on the carbon footprint of getting food to Darfur?

  14. By the way, what’s your take on the carbon footprint of getting food to Darfur?

    If you can’t tell the difference between the air shipment of grape juice to the wealthy world and the airdropping of emergency rations to a civil war-infested famine zone, then I pity you, Joe.

    Your bombast ain’t cute.

  15. Joe –

    I enjoy many of the wines in your extensive portfolio. I like that they are from small producers who often use organic methods of cultivation. I am also interested in the carbon footprint of consumer goods, including wine. Perhaps other consumers of your wines are also interested in no longer externalizing greenhouse gas emissions but instead trying to reduce them? Perhaps this is an issue you should embrace rather than attack as it would resonate with other consumers who enjoy your style of wines.

    Yes, there is an eBook of my book. The hardcover edition is manufactured in the USA.

    According to this article, a pound of paper has 0.29 lbs CO2e. At 1.5 lbs, my book has 0.45 lbs C02e.

    By contrast, a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau airfreighted to New York has has about 6 lbs CO2e. And for San Francisco, Seoul, and Tokyo, it’s clearly much higher.

    Since about 12 million bottles of BN will be airfreighted this year, why don’t we resume this discussion after the 12 millionth copy of my book has sold? Then I’ll still be at a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the BN 2008 vintage.

    Of note: Louis/Dressner features in the book as one of the best importers in America.

    Have a nice day.

  16. Wait, Joe is an importer? Does he import Beaujolais nouveau? Is that why he’s so pissy? You’re indirectly slamming his business, Tyler! Own up, Joe!

  17. […] less expensive and greener shipping by boat, dr. vino acknowledges that and writes about it here: putting water in my own wine boycott. that said, he argument works for me, and long ago, i decided that beaujolais nouveau was pretty […]

  18. I’ll be taking your advice and drinking a local Gamay. For Beaujolais Nouveau day I’m going to pull the cork on a bottle of Whitecliff Vineyards Gamay Noir Estate Bottled just for spite. I was never a fan of Beaujolais Nouveau! The stuff gives me a headache.

  19. To me, even as an active environmentalist, I find attacking the carbon footprint of transporting wine to the point of boycott to be categorically ridiculous. The world is a mess with the amount of consumer goods that are needlessly created distantly from where they are consumed to reduce costs, and the amount of industries and companies that will exploit and destroy the environment in any way possible to turn a buck. I find it hard to imagine why one would take any time or effort to attack an industry built on protecting the environment to create a natural product. And that cherishes the regional differences in our planet to create unique products to act as ambassadors different regions of the world and of what a protected environment can create.

    It is commendable to examine the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the wine industry so that it operates as efficiently as possible and to support local wineries as your other article does. But you shouldn’t jump from those lessons to boycotting a popular holiday wine and huge marketing success for the wine industry. There isn’t enough being done in the name of Beaujolais Nouveau to deserve that type of treatment.

    I particularly don’t like this attack because I have found that Beaujolais nouveau, although a gimmick, has been a great way of exposing casual wine drinkers or non-wine drinkers to the joys of the seasonal and regional differences of wine drinking. It’s a simple wine, but a gateway wine to understanding the varieties of what exists around the world and the traditions that go into wine beyond cabernets.

    It is the greater understanding and exposure to the world and its varied environments that breaks down bigotry and inspires people to protect the environment. This is one of the great things about the wine industry and the gimmick of Beaujolais Nouveau. The carbon footprint of wine helps end ignorance and indifference about the environment for people that otherwise would be comfortable in isolation.

  20. Or boycott wine that destroys nature!


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