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Columns – Sandra Taylor

Do Sustainably Made Wines Taste Better?
Sandra Taylor
Apr 26, 2023

April 26, 2023: While there are several studies on wine perception, not a lot is known about sensory characteristics of wines deriving from sustainably-made vs conventional wines. The intrinsic sensory aspects of wine-notably taste and aroma - aren't the only components in the decision making of many contemporary consumers. In addition to a product that is enjoyable in all sensory aspects, these consumers expect wines to be healthful and produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. Today's wine consumers are increasingly concerned by the effects of conventional agricultural production practices on both human and environmental health and seek assurance that the industry is effectively protecting the environment and treating workers fairly, all while delivering quality wines.

Why Are Sustainable Wines So Expensive?
Sandra Taylor
Apr 26, 2022

Apr. 27, 2022: A survey of 10,000 consumers across 17 countries by a UK consultancy in July 2021 found 60 percent rated sustainability as an important purchase criterion. More encouragingly, a survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers from October 2021 found 75-to-80 percent willing to pay higher prices for sustainable items across food and drink, apparel, and household products categories. A July 2021 survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers found 68 percent willing to pay more for sustainable products, up from 58 percent from a 2019 survey. Yet the reality often proves otherwise. Research also shows that when these consumers come to check out, they often go for the lower priced items that fit within their budgets. In my own research for an upcoming book, I have conducted interviews with younger consumers -- millennials and GenXers - who tell me they want to buy sustainably produced or organic wine, but they ask, why are sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines so expensive?

Natural is Good; Natural and Socially Just is Better
Sandra Taylor
Aug 10, 2021

Environmental responsibility has been a growing focal point in the wine industry over the last few decades and is certainly here to stay. Yet a focus on social responsibility, racial injustice, and/or gender and racial inequities in the wine industry is not so apparent. Growers and winemakers see commitments to climate action as a critical strategic priority. But many are slow to recognize social justice as a critical risk factor. The wine industry is working to fulfill expectations of more environmental compliance, yet despite the potential, there is still much to be done with respect to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Staying the Course on Climate Adaptation
Sandra Taylor
Dec 15, 2020

In a survey conducted by the Harris Poll in December 2019, American adults said climate change was the number one issue facing society. At the time, business and government leaders were making high profile and meaningful commitments to lower greenhouse gases.? The news cycle included regular coverage of climate change and its devastating impacts. Since then,?our global collective consciousness has?shifted?abruptly as we face the devastating health and economic costs of COVID-19 and?the pernicious consequences of deeply-rooted racial injustice. ?Yet climate change continues unabated and no one knows this more than the wine industry. All winegrowers faces the immediate consequences of climate change. They realize that their continued success depends on rethinking their business models in the face of climate-related events that represent a clear and present danger, not a future risk. What steps must the wine industry take to adapt?

Sustainability in Wine Production
Sandra Taylor
Sep 22, 2020

Consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly concerned about where their food and beverages come from, how they are made, and whether they're produced in a responsible way. Wine is no exception. As the demand for organic food continues to increase, restaurants and retailers are also seeing demand for wine made through sustainable practices. My involvement with sustainable agriculture began when I worked in the coffee industry, during a period of tremendous growth in high-quality coffee shops and retail categories around the world. Being a wine enthusiast and longtime student of wine, I understood the many similarities between coffee and wine cultivation and tasting, so I subsequently began research into the social and environmental practices in winemaking.

Orange Wine: The Old Becomes New Again
Sandra Taylor
Feb 4, 2020

Far far from being a new fad, "Orange" or skin-contact wine results from the oldest recorded winemaking process in the world, dating back some 8,000 years. Orange wines originated in Georgia, the mountainous Eastern European country that's been making wine for millennia. Georgians traditionally made skin-contact wine from white grapes in large, egg-shaped terracotta pots called qvevri that were buried underground up to the neck of the pot. They called it 'amber wine,' since the color variations can be numerous. Orange wine is a more recent designation-coined by a UK importer-for this ancient winemaking process.

Tasting Climate Change: Adaptation in a Vessel
Sandra Taylor
Dec 17, 2019

A few weeks ago I attended the second edition of Tasting Climate Change, a one-day international conference in Montreal. Convened every two years by Canadian sommelier and author Michelle Bouffard, the conference brought together leading speakers who are very knowledgeable about today's climate realities as well as the effects on vineyards. The final panel of the day shifted to what sustainability mean for wine consumers and how they can adapt. One way is for retailers to create and launch a recycling program for wine bottles. Another is for consumers to seek out wine in kegs. Increasingly, wine on tap is gaining traction as a delivery method for serving wine by the glass in restaurants and wine bars. There are numerous environmental benefits.

The Wines of Château Maris: Biodynamic and Sustainable Winery in the Languedoc
Sandra Taylor
Oct 15, 2019

It is always a pleasurable and educational experience for me to hear biodynamic wine makers share their passion for their work and their commitment to bio-diversity and respect for true terroir. This was certainly the case when I recently met Robert Eden of Château Maris at a wine dinner in Washington, DC. Sustainability is his passion, and it goes beyond the organic and biodynamic farming he practices on his estate. In the Languedoc-Roussillon region and located in La Livinière, the first Cru Village of the Languedoc, the wines of Château Maris have become among the most respected and highly sought-after of the entire Languedoc-Roussillon.

Sustainability in the Australian Grape and Wine Sector
Sandra Taylor
Aug 13, 2019

The Australian wine industry has been building its capacity in the sustainability space for many years, with the launch of numerous regional programs, like the McLaren Vale Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (MVSWGA), and the national sustainability program, 'Entwine Australia,' which allowed vineyards and wineries to choose among several certifications -- ISO 14001 or one from Freshcare , the certification program for the Australian fresh produce industry - which ever best suited their business needs. In 2018, the industry decided to consolidate the existing programs into a single, united national program that is owned and led nationally, integrating the best parts of all of them into this national program.

The Changing Climate for Wine
Sandra Taylor
Apr 16, 2019

In 2013 a group of scientists with Conservation International released key findings that climate change will dramatically impact many of the most famous wine-producing regions in the world today. The study warned that California could experience a 70 percent reduction in wine production by 2050, as the area suitable for grape cultivation shrinks to narrow strips along the coast and up at high elevations. By 2050 high-value areas which are currently major sites for producing premium grape varieties in California--especially Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon--may no longer be suitable.

Wait! Isn't ALL Wine Natural?
Sandra Taylor
Feb 19, 2019

There's no official or legal definition of natural wine; neither has any legislation been passed to date by any regional, national, or international regulatory body or authority, and there are no organizations that can certify that a wine is natural. However, there are many unofficial definitions or codes of practice published by the different associations of natural wine producers in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. What we call natural wines are wines made with the least possible use of chemicals, additives, and overly technological procedures. Nothing is added or subtracted in the cellar--no additives, no chemicals, no sulfur, no oak character from barrels, no filtering, no cultured yeasts. The grapes are normally grown organically or biodynamically and are picked by hand and fermented with natural yeast.

This Holiday Season, Drink Responsibly
Sandra Taylor
Dec 25, 2018

For me the holidays are prefect opportunities to drink the really good bottles I've been aging for special occasions. I also seek out extraordinary wines that fulfill my commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. So, for this festive time of entertaining and gift giving, drink well and shop for wines that are responsibly made. These are my wine suggestions for the end of year celebrations -- all sustainably produced, certified biodynamic or organic, and most have social commitments to their workers and communities. These wines pair well with holiday recipes and also make great gifts for hostesses, hosts and wine enthusiasts.

Organic Winegrowing: What Does It Mean to be Organic?
Sandra Taylor
Oct 30, 2018

Organic food and beverage sales are setting records among grocery shoppers worldwide. Organic wine statistics are equally impressive. And around the globe, organically grown wine is one of the fastest growing categories. Organic wine production grew by 295% in Europe and 280% in the world between 2004 and 2015, according to a recent study by Wine Monitor Nomisma. Organic wine grapes account for an estimated 5% of total vineyard acreage worldwide. European organic viticulture (293,000 hectares) accounts for 88% of total global organic vineyard area. In France 9% of all vineyards (or 146,000 acres) are organic. Italy (83,000 hectares) has the highest organic vineyard-area ratio -- 11.9% of its cultivated vines are organic -- followed by Austria, with 11.7%, and Spain, with 10.2%.

University of Pinot
Sandra Taylor
Sep 4, 2018

Every summer I look forward to spending the last weekend of July in McMinnville, Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), a wonderful wine festival where guests enjoy three days of tasting beautiful Pinot Noir from world-renowned winemakers, including Grand Cru Burgundy and Champagne, and sharing delicious meals from Pacific northwest chefs. IPNC is also a venue for celebrating leading lights in the industry and learning about regions and new trends in wine production. This year I had the privilege to organize and moderate a seminar for IPNC's University of Pinot sustainability, with presentations by producers from several regions. University of Pinot offers IPNC guests a wide variety of informative seminars each afternoon on such topics as sensory evaluations, regional updates from New Zealand, California, and Austria.

So You Don't Like White Wines?
Sandra Taylor
Jul 10, 2018

So often, when dining out with friends who ask me to choose the wine for our meal, someone inevitably declares, 'I really don't like white wine!' I am always astonished because this means they have been missing out on some truly wonderful wines from many regions of the world. Likewise at wine tastings I host for women who seek to be more knowledgeable about wines, they too can be overheard saying they don't really care for the white wines, that they are just too thin and acidic for their liking. Since we're now in the time of year when even the most ardent red wine drinker chooses a chilled refreshing white wine while dining al fresco, this is my opportunity to suggest interesting whites that red lovers continue drinking even into fall and winter.

Biodynamic Basics
Sandra Taylor
May 22, 2018

Biodynamic wine producers believe that life begins in the soil and that a healthy balance in the vineyard eco-system and in their wines is dependent on first achieving healthy balance in the soil. Many turn to biodynamic viticulture in order to restore balance to over-used soil that had been abused by years of poor agricultural practices. The biodynamic approach to grape growing has become one of the more controversial issues within the wine industry. The skeptics, who are many, see it as an incredible waste of time and money. For some, it is pure quackery, an affront to science and modern thinking. For its adherents, however, biodynamic viticulture is a further advance along a similar line as organic viticulture.