By Jason Feulner, Finger Lakes Correspondent
Sometimes, seems like we are in the midst of a green invasion, rather than a green revolution.
The term is used all over the place nowadays and has cropped up in several Finger Lakes stories lately:
- Democrat and Chronicle staff writer Karen Miltner discusses green grape growing here
- In a special report to the Democrat and Chronicle, freelance wine writer Thomas Pellachia outlines the effect of global warming on Finger Lakes vintages (Pellachia is also the author and publisher of the Vinofictions blog).
- The Finger Lakes Weekend Wino has also unearthed this report on Finger Lakes green space from MPNnow's Bryan Roth.
My first attempt to gather some thoughts on this topic came off like an expository essay, which I quickly abandoned with the assumption that there is enough preaching going on in the green movement already. The crux of it, from my perspective, is that like many trends "green" is largely a good thing. But within the discourse there is plenty of bad as well.
The good is easily recognized, of course.
In terms of agriculture, the advent of the motor took farms that were previously run like artificial but efficient ecosystems and allowed for faster, less-expensive work, thereby producing more waste. Better transportation spurred the development and distribution of chemical treatments that could be delivered cheaply, creating a dependency on these methods.
Green, on some level, is the acknowledgment that efficiency has been lost from the system, and that farms of any kind can benefit from careful planning and a dedication to allowing the natural systems and by-products to work with one another to keep the farm clean, sound, efficient and sustainable. It just makes sense, doesn't it?
The bad part of green is a little more complex, but is also obvious to many observers. Those who espouse "green" the loudest run the risk of hypocrisy since the reality of what is possible with current technologies and market demands is never quite up to speed with the rhetoric.
In the wine industry, the wineries that have embraced "green" and market it like crazy sometimes seem to lose sight of their main purpose--creating the best wine possible. What if the best wine from a given year requires both conventional and green techniques? Those who want to buy wine based solely on whether it is green or not are not buying wine, but a concept that is emotionally satisfying. That is their right, but they are in the minority.
I am far more impressed with winery operations that go green because it makes sense but promote it as a secondary consideration. Green is not a logical prerequisite for good wine. A sense of modesty about green indicates an acknowledgment of the challenges inherent in such a venture. Over-marketing of the term is simply tiring and serves to dilute the meaning of such a commitment.
The Finger Lakes is abundant in natural beauty and has many open green spaces. Any sensible wine entrepreneur should keep the environment foremost in his or her mind as the region's natural features are just as much of an attraction as the wine, and I would argue the two work in close conjunction in terms of making the Finger Lakes a unique place to visit.
Yet, the growing challenges of the Finger Lakes region should remind us all that sometimes compromises have to be made. The use of any green method is an improvement over the past, even it is has to be mixed with more conventional farming practices. At the end of the day, I want the best bottle of wine possible. Otherwise, why is it worth making at all or, even more directly, why would it be worth buying?
As a region known for its unpretentious nature, I think most Finger Lakes wineries will embrace green with their heads as well as their hearts. Some may overdo it, but I think most see the creative challenges inherent in green agriculture and will embrace them sensibly. Certainly, the state will see to it that some of these methods are more attractive to the average grape grower.
In the interest of a sane discussion, I am leaving out my thoughts on global warming and its relationship to all of this green farming talk. I have a funny feeling we'll be seeing more and more references to this phenomenon if the east coast is hit with a few more hot and dry vintages like 2005 and 2007. Certainly, a lively discussion for another day...