An Interview With Mr Pablo Alvarez at the Wine Pinnacle Awards
Mr Pablo Álvarez, CEO & Owner of Tempos Vega Sicilia, and current president of the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV), is a man who loves wine. During his recent trip to Singapore to be a part of the Wine Pinnacle Awards, we managed to catch up with the man in question to discuss the importance of his work, what sustainability means to him and what the future of sustainability holds for winemakers.
Tell us what it means to be the president of the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV), as well as the Chair of Europvin at this point in your life and work?
I believe that the Primum Familiae Vini, after over thirty years of hard work, of traveling around the world, meetings among the families every year, has shown how important family continuity is in the wineries, family values and how some families have managed to transmit these values over many generations. The twelve families that compose Primum Familiae Vini today, continue on this path. With difficulties in each of the families, nothing is easy and many times it requires sacrifices, but also successes, great successes that could only be achieved by a family.
Personally, for me, it is a meeting among friends, many friends, for families are increasing and we all share and learn from each and every one of the members. And that is priceless as an association, unique in the world.
Europvin, which it is now my responsibility to be president, is a vehicle for knowledge and commercialization of our wines. In our case, in the United States, a country with 50 states within it, with a diversity in its population, its geography, its customs, which make it impossible to have full knowledge of. Europvin is the company that helps us learn more about so many different markets and so many preferences in wine consumption.
How much do the issues of the global climate affect wine production, especially in Europe?
We are witnessing global climatic changes resulting in different consequences according to local scenarios, due to the effect of the variation in microclimates in Europe. The response should be individualized, depending on each crop and its sensitivity to climate change. We need to study and assess the effects on the vineyard based on the oenological criteria of each type of wine produced. It is also important to analyze future scenarios to carry out the different tasks responsibly and respond to future generations. There have always been changes in both, climate and production objectives based on market demand, which has resulted in an evolution in vineyard management to respond to market demands and climate changes and local micro-climates. We must continue to adapt to these future changes by improving our knowledge of the vineyard and its environment, improving plant biodiversity to maintain the quality of our grapes according to the oenological parameters sought for each wine profile and each moment in history.
Is global climate change all that bad for the wine industry in general?
Climate change and the effects of increasing global pollution have several consequences depending on many other factors and conditions. Speaking of the plant world in general, we can observe and foresee a natural adaptation in the future, as we´ve experienced in the past, towards a selection of varieties which adapt better to the expected climatic conditions. Without falling into alarming scenarios, there may be an opportunity for improvement towards wines from varieties with better capabilities to adapt to their environment and therefore obtain wines with greater personality. It is not an easy task but change and adaptation is also a form of future improvement that will force us to study and better understand our environment with a desire to respect, improve and preserve it.
What are some of the ways wine growers and vineyards have to reorient their thinking and the knowledge they have accrued over the years when dealing with climate change and the way they grow grapes? Are there any specific examples that can be cited?
Vine growers need to adapt to a changing scenario, but this is something that has already been happening for different reasons throughout world wine history. Sometimes for climatic reasons, other times due to pests and diseases such as phylloxera, powdery mildew or mildew, and many other times for market reasons (wine styles, tastes, fashions...). Viticulture has been evolving both in management methods and in the selection of plant material or soils and areas suitable for different viticultural and oenological criteria. For this reason, the types and styles of wine have been changing, as well as their analytical parameters. Occasionally, the market criterion has changed more due to trends or market demand for a type of wine than the climate or microclimate in the same period of time. For example, in the last 50 years in Spain, we have gone from drinking wine as a part of our daily diet and source of calories for hard work in the field to what is has become today, a hedonistic drink, where alcohol is less important and therefore vineyard management has changed substantially towards much less production and full phenolic maturity. This adjustment implies having great knowledge of tradition and at the same time developing new viticultural tools to respond to new challenges. Sometimes reviewing our past provides traditional knowledge that, along with new 4.0 technology, offers us possibilities for ongoing improvement. At times we may have the answer in an improved tradition. Those local varieties that were left behind due to lack of production may, with a current revision, be most appropriate to adapt to a changing climate environment.
Will climate change affect the wine cultures of historically wine-growing countries?
Climate has been changing continuously throughout history. Now what is a matter of concern is its accelerating speed, due to large-scale pollution. This is an enormous challenge, and much work remains to be done. The vineyard is powerful, we have great variability, over 10,000 vine varieties in the world, which implies a large genetic reserve to be able to adapt to change from a local standpoint. We must control pollution so as not to degrade the natural habitats where the vine can develop and express itself. We need to study viticulture from a holistic perspective, our environment is the vineyard, the trees, the soil, the rivers, the valleys, the plateaus... Everything is a whole, we cannot separate them, we must conserve, respect, and improve the whole at the best of our ability. We all need to work together and row in the same direction, so the wine culture will not only be preserved, but will be enriched in nuances. We must pollute less, protect our forests from threats and aggressions, promote life in rural areas so that these communities can care for the environment by making good use of our natural resources. With hard work, we will ensure that these traditional wine-producing countries continue to maintain a wine culture adapted to the environment and can pass down to future generations.
What can we pass down to the next generation of wine makers when it comes to coping with climate change and the wine industry?
We must transmit the culture of respect and environmental care for the plant heritage that surrounds us. Respect for tradition and continuous study of new viticultural and oenological development tools. Rational vineyard management techniques, well-used water economy, strain balance control to obtain optimal production levels, knowledge of the soil and its microbial life to stop erosion, study of pests and diseases which shall coexist, aiding in the natural balance of its surrounding ecosystem. Improvement in the vineyard´s environment, planting of trees and shrubs associated with the vineyard and its auxiliary flora and fauna, respect for groundwater and riverbeds. Also, plenty of enthusiasm to strive to produce the best wine possible in each region using the necessary resources in a respectful way.