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I am not astonished at the existence of Dr. Vino's blog, but who knew there was an American Association of Wine Economists? (Thanks, Whet.)
Dr. Vino in a recent post waxes lengthy and eloquent on the carbon footprint of various wines, and reaches a conclusion I think somewhat similar to that of the omniscient Michael Pollan: local makes a lot of difference. A few tidbits:
"Shipping premium wine, bottled at the winery, around the world mostly involves shipping glass with some wine in it. In this regard, drinking wine from a magnum is the more carbon-friendly choice since the glass-to-wine ratio is less. Half-bottles, by contrast, worsen the ratio.
"Shipping wine in bulk from the source and bottling closer to the point of consumption lowers carbon intensity.
"Light packaging material such as Tetra-Pak or bag-in-a-box has much less carbon intensity...
"There’s a 'green line' that runs down the middle of Ohio. For points to the West of that line, it is more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked from California. To the East of that line, it’s more efficient to consume the same sized bottle of wine from Bordeaux, which has had benefited from the efficiencies of container shipping, followed by a shorter truck trip."
And on and on. If you like this sort of thing, you'll want to read the whole thing, or better yet, the full study titled "Red, White and 'Green': The Cost of Carbon in the Global Wine Trade," (pdf), which is AAWE Working Paper no. 9.
But nerdliness has its limits. Speaking as someone who can lose all focus when confronted with the wonderful maps that show how many days it will take to ship something from La Porte to Laramie, I say stop it! Environmentalist wine connoisseurs shouldn't spend their time on such things. They should lobby Congress to impose a hefty carbon tax ASAP, so that we all get the message loud and clear from the price stickers on Ripple and everything else.
Nothing less will help, because nobody has time to go around calculating the carbon footprint of every damn thing they do/eat/drink. That's what markets are for.