Made In The U.S.A.

The Toll of Wine

In Adventures on June 7, 2009 at 12:02 am

I read an article at National Geographic last month that I made note of specifically for the purposes of returning to it and blogging about it. It was called “The Toll of Wine”–at least, that’s what I called it in my notes. And this was the link:

That link now goes nowhere.

As I recall, it was about the carbon footprint of transporting a bottle of wine from where it was grown–say France or Napa or Argentina–to the dining table in your home. Shipping a bottle of beverage halfway around the world, you would think, isn’t exactly buying local.

The problem is, the good wine comes from somewhere else unless you live in very specific parts of California, France or South America. (Yes, I know, the Missouri Norton is actually a great wine. And every other winemaking region probably has its own successful varietal. But in terms of all caps WINE, it ain’t from Missouri any more than it’s from New York City.) And the point is, if you want to drink wine it’s probably coming from far away.

As I also recall, the point was that in fact a wine shipped from overseas to New York had in fact less of a carbon footprint than wine shipped from within the United States. Why? Because wine shipped from Europe, for instance, is delivered in bulk by seagoing vessel in ways that make the per-bottle carbon outlay less of a problem than truck-shipped California wines.

Then the wine whining started. And now I can’t find the story at any more.

Apparently there were some issues with the facts, or findings, or inferences. Or maybe it’s just a technical error. But industry folks have taken the story to taks, and raised some interesting points here.

I find the authors’ model for calculating carbon emissions unsubstantiated, and many of their assumptions and assertions ranging from “questionable” to “susceptible to outright refutation.” There is also an implicit but unsubtle negative bias expressed toward high-end wine from California. In my opinion this paper lacks enough scientific rigor to have any merit with respect to moving public policy, much less public opinion.

So figure it out for yourself. Or just take the point as an illustrative one about all the things we buy, and their origins. If they come from close to home, they probably don’t need to be shipped by bus or train or plane or parachute.

In Missouri, I guess that means you’ll be drinking the Norton.

Or Bud.


  1. or find a local craft brewery(Schlafly).
    Even better, homebrew (They have winemaking stuff too).

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