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Stéphane Derenoncourt Warns of the Threat of Global Warming to French Terroir

In August, a group of over 50 leading French vintners, sommeliers, chefs and chateau owners issued a warning that unless drastic action is taken to address the effects of global warming on France's environment, French wine will suffer grave consequences. Published on August 11 by France's main newspaper, Le Monde, the statement calls on President Nicolas Sarkozy to seek international agreements designed to curb carbon emissions for the sake of the survival of France's wine industry. Le Monde featured prominently among the letter's signers Montesquieu's own Stéphane Derenoncourt, who has long fought on the frontlines for environmentally sustainable viticultural and winemaking practices. The full English text of the letter is set forth below.


Global Warming Threatens the Balance of Our Terroirs and the Soul of Our Wines

French wines – those elegant and refined jewels of our common cultural heritage – are today endangered. Recent climatic changes make the vines increasingly vulnerable. Heat waves in the summertime, hail storms like those that recently afflicted Bordeaux, new diseases coming from the south – all of these disturbances will soon worsen. Experts from the IGCC (Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change) are clear: if we fail to contain global warming below 2˚C, the effects on our ecosystems will be uncontrollable.

Wine expresses all of its subtlety in its terroir. In the mouth, a wine reflects the alchemy of the encounter between a soil and generations of vintners who handed down their passion, their labor and their creativity. Today, this alchemy is imperiled. Marked by alcohol levels too pronounced, aromatic ranges too baked and textures too dense, our wines could lose their unique souls… If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the vineyards will move 1000km beyond their traditional limit by the end of the century: viticulture will confront a radical challenge. The terroirs will not survive.

Wine professionals are at a crossroads. If we want to halt this destructive spiral and live up to our heritage, we must act now. Acting in our vineyards and in our caves is the first step towards orientating all of our winegrowing practices around respect for animal life – on the macro and micro levels – and for plant life above and below the ground. If extended, these practices will help preserve our biodiversity and strengthen our terroirs.

Acting now also requires especially that we push our political leaders to take up the challenge of climate change. In December, an international conference on the climate change will be held in Copenhagen that will seal the future of humanity. At this conference, representatives will debate and determine reduction goals for greenhouse gas and economic models that will make our transition to a sustainable development possible. For us – growers, vintners, winemakers, sommeliers, chefs, and ecologists, artisans and advocates of more environmentally viticultural practices – there is only one goal: to reach an ambitious agreement requiring industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and to establish concrete mechanisms to help the developing world.

It is this concern that will protect our terroirs, our vineyards and our wineries; it is this aspiration to overcome that will dictate the excellence of our wine. That is why are mobilizing and will remain mobilized. Together, we call on the President of the French Republic and the Minister of the Environment of the world's foremost winegrowing culture to exemplary conduct in the Copenhagen negotiations. Our future depends on it.

Signed by Pascal Husting, Greenpeace France, and more than 50 wine and culinary professionals, including Jean-Luc Rabanel, Marc Veyrat, Mauro Colagreco (chefs); Franck Thomas, Antoine Petrus (sommeliers); Stéphane Derenoncourt (vintners), along with 35 wineries from Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Southwestern France, the Loire Valley, Languedoc-Rousillon, Corsica, and Bordeaux.