Miguel A. Torres is rallying the wine industry to fight climate change.

By Ray Isle
June 16, 2021
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Illustration of wind and solar powered wine
Credit: Gabriel Hollington

Chalk it up to Al Gore. In 2007, Miguel A. Torres saw the former VP's documentary An Inconvenient Truth and decided that as a winery "we had to accelerate. Of course," he says, "ecology was always a part of our philosophy. We live from the earth, and we are also a family-owned company, so this combination always led us, and still does, to care for our land and resources. Not just for this generation, but also for future generations."

Revelations like that probably aren't uncommon, but actually acting upon them is. Bodegas Torres is the largest winery in Spain, with outposts in California (Marimar Estate) and Chile (Miguel Torres Chile). Soon after Torres' realization, the company launched its climate protection program, Torres & Earth, investing more than $18 million in renewable energy, biomass, energy efficiency, reforestation, and more. "Between 2008 and 2019, we also reduced our CO2 emissions by 30% per bottle"-Torres produces more than 12 million bottles of wine per year-"and our plan is now to reach 55% per bottle by 2030, becoming 'climate positive' by 2050."

Miguel A. Torres
Credit: Edu Bayer

But the actions of one winery, no matter how large, are not enough to affect global climate change. "Practically every vine grower in the world was already noticing climate change three decades ago, as vines are very sensitive to temperature shifts," Torres says. "We need to drastically decarbonize our world economy to contain the increase in global temperatures, and this requires the participation of all: governments, countries, sectors, individuals. We have to work together."

To that end, Torres, together with Jackson Family Wines in California, created International Wineries for Climate Actiona group of wineries focused on reducing carbon emissions across the wine industry. The current membership includes major wine names such as Symington Family Estates in Portugal, Silver Oak in California, and Yealands Estate Wines in New Zealand. "But," Torres says, "we need many more!"

IWCA is only one of Torres' initiatives. Additional projects include reforestation in Chilean Patagonia, where the family has planted trees across nearly 13,000 acres to recover the region's original forest landscape and to capture CO2; implementing carbon capture and reuse strategies at the company's wineries (CO2 is a natural byproduct of winemaking but is typically dispersed into the atmosphere rather than reused); and more. "A lot of wineries base their decisions about whether or not to invest in CO2-reduction programs on purely economic criteria," Torres says. "I find that if you take that as a starting point, change won't happen. You have to think and act with a long-term perspective. It's crucial that we act together to put a stop to this madness that will make our Earth almost uninhabitable by the end of this century."