Livin’ La Vida Local
By Richard Olsen
Years ago, eating and drinking locally usually meant taking a walk to the neighborhood pub. Today, being a locavore means eating and drinking food that was grown and produced within the town, county or state where you live. Consumers are embracing the farm-to-table movement. More and more restaurants are serving food from local farm stands and filling their cellars with wines produced down the road.
It takes work, and the chefs who support local agriculture are rightly praised for their commitment to “locology.” Aside from the fact that local wines can be absolutely delicious, there are a number of good reasons to buy them, not the least of which is sustainability.
Here is my list of reasons for drinking locally produced wine —no matter where you are from, and no matter where you sit on the locavore spectrum.
Yes, you read that right. Many people don’t think of the term “fresh” when they are buying wines, but it definitely applies when you’re talking about local vino. Enjoying a wine made close to home means you’re getting a product that hasn’t been jostled and shipped thousands of miles. Consequently, local producers have the ability to make wines with little or none of the additives typically needed to ship wine long distances. Local wines are the freshest you will ever taste; many are released soon after the vintage and still exhibit a slight “spritz” from fermentation.
9. Carbon Emissions and Transportation
In a recent study by Tyler Colman and Pablo Päster (a wine educator and a sustainability tracker, respectively), an economic model was developed for measuring the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine. Their study showed it’s more “green” for New Yorkers to drink wine shipped from Europe than wine from California that makes its way east by truck. This held true all the way toColumbus,Ohio, the point where a wine fromBordeauxandNapahave the same carbon footprint.
Reading this study, it was clear to me the authors didn’t consider a world-class wine region is less than100 milesfrom the Big Apple. Clearly for a New Yorker, drinking wine fromLong Islandis the most sustainable choice when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint. The bottom line is that less fossil fuel is consumed and less carbon is emitted to get local wine to market. No other wine is fresher or quicker to market than the one made90 milesaway—especially when you pick it up from our winery in Cutchogue.
8. Land Use
Due to the increase in global demand for wine, new vineyards are being planted all over the world on land that was previously used for “traditional” agriculture or was otherwise in a natural state. Much ofCalifornia’s vineyard land has been converted from prime agricultural land or from land that was once forested. In either case, such change often results in more CO2 released into the atmosphere. In the case ofLong Island, many vineyards were planted on land that was previously farmed but was perilously close to being developed.
The majority of local vineyards were planted during periods of tremendous economic growth, replacing more traditional crops like potatoes.Long Islandvineyards were not planted on forested land or in areas that were not previously farmed. One could easily make the case that the local wine industry was primarily responsible for preventing further development of theNorth Forkand conserved our precious agricultural heritage.
7. Farmland Preservation
Development pressure in the Northeast has replaced farms with homes and shopping malls. Housing developments remove native groundcover and trees, release more carbon, add to water-table depletion and are the major cause of nitrogen runoff into our waterways. With the advent of farmland preservation programs, the ability for growers to purchase and plant vines was greatly increased—all within100 milesof the nation’s largest city. With the establishment of the wine industry, theNorth Forkalone has preserved more than3,000 acres.
The majority of West Coast vineyards are heavily irrigated due to lack of rain during the growing season. Thus, as vines require a large amount of water, it is difficult to grow grapes commercially without drip irrigation. Not only can irrigation lead to the depletion of local aquifers, its pumps also require energy while carrying excess agrochemicals into surrounding waterways.