Climate change at the tipping point

A report on the the latest iteration of the Familia Torres climate change conference by Felicity Carter.

Miguel A. Torres
Miguel A. Torres

“People still don’t see the urgency of the change we need,” said Miguel Torres, speaking at the opening of the Familia Torres Climate Change Course, held in Sitges, Spain in early April. Now a regular event, it brings scientists, politicians, winemakers and writers together to hear about breakthroughs in combating climate change.

Torres is frustrated at the slow pace of change, particularly when it comes to legislation. So he’s taken matters into his own hands, and he ticked off some of the initiatives that Familia Torres is investing in, from viticultural experiments to technology trials. “All our focus goes to Patagonia,” he said, where the company has bought 6,000ha of land. “This is going to allow us to plant trees.” A decade ago, Torres also invested in land at higher altitudes, because “every 100m you go is one degree less”.

Torres believes that viticulture must fundamentally change to delay maturation. “In the 1980s the idea was to advance maturation. Now it’s the contrary, or we might have to harvest in August.” Planting vines further apart is one answer, as is avoiding de-leafing. In the face of more hail events, hail nets have become important, while goblet planting – where the plant grows into a goblet shape under a canopy that protects it from the sun – may have to return.

Controversially, Torres doesn’t believe that organic viticulture is the answer. “I know many people believe it is. Consumers think that by drinking organic, it’s very healthy and they are saving the planet,” he said. “Actually, it is the contrary. Emissions are higher and there is the problem with copper: it is toxic for soils; it is toxic for vegetables.”

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