Sustainability, by Paul Dolan

Dolan’s biodynamic farm, including vineyard. Image courtesy of Paul Dolan. (Dolan’s biodynamic farm, including vineyard. Drawing courtesy of Paul Dolan)

Much of this past week’s Playhouse wine festival in Vancouver was unique and enjoyable. Perhaps no other event was as interesting or personally appealing as Friday morning’s seminar on sustainability in winemaking, featuring a presentation and talk by Paul Dolan. Dolan is a champion of sustainability and aims to inspire the entire wine industry to consider its impact on the earth. He spent 27 years at Fetzer, where he transformed a local, family-owned vineyard into a global brand and developed its implementation of environmental awareness along the way. Today, Fetzer is a role model for accountable and environmentally respectful winemaking practices.

It was interesting to be a part of this seminar, which was attended by several industry bigwigs, including international brand directors, winemakers from Canada and afar, heads of government-funded wine industry bodies, and leading Canadian wine media. Some of these ladies and gents, including one sitting beside me, scoffed at the idea of organic winemaking, or biodynamic farming, and patently refused to dignify what they considered to be wasted visions of utopia in a real, dollars-and-cents, multinational wine industry.

The fact of the matter is (and here’s where I expose my age and perhaps my utopianism), the world requires that we be considerate of our impact upon it. We’ve been running an environmental deficit (that we’ve continued to take, irrespective of putting anything back or compensating for what is taken) for a long time now, and subsequently it’s not too far in the future where we’ll start being directly affected by our poor decisions and those of earlier generations. It was wonderful to see Dolan’s conviction and presence of mind to reconsider the basis of farming practices so that we are not continuously raping our land of any future prospect to grow agriculture. I enjoy putting a little extra thought into buying groceries or stuff like wine. It’s interesting and fulfilling to not be ignorant about wondering where it comes from, and how the world is affected along the way.

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