A flood of information: the relevancy of Circle online seminars

Committee member Liz Sagues looks back on several superbly salient sessions of the ‘Let’s talk about…’ series.

The timing could not have been more topical. As members logged in for the first of the Circle’s June ‘Let’s talk about…’ webinars, Philip Cox, owner of Romanian winery Cramele Recas and one of the presenters, sent a ‘Sorry, I’ll be late’ message. The reason: he was dealing with a massive flood in the winery, from one of the many recent storms surely caused by the climate emergency.

‘Goodbye to Glass?’ was the webinar subject, with detailed explanation of three possible alternatives to the conventional wine packing solution, which accounts for roughly half of the wine industry’s carbon emissions.

The speakers had compelling arguments for their alternative packaging, but were also refreshingly frank on revealing the disadvantages. Alongside Cox, who is responsible for a PET bottle made from plastic waste recycled from the Danube and the Black Sea, we welcomed Nick Taylor, group wine director at Direct Wines, explaining his company’s paper bottles initiative, and Circle member Niels van Laatum, discussing the pros and cons of cans.

You can watch and learn from the recording (link) – there was far too much information even to attempt to summarise here. But one overriding difficulty, all three accepted, was to persuade consumers that a good wine can be poured from out-of-the-ordinary packaging. It was, as committee member Wink Lorch said as she thanked the trio, a “kick up the backside” to us all, as wine communicators, that it is our responsibility to spread that message.

Discussion of such a contemporary issue was a big contrast to the ‘Let’s talk about…’ that preceded it, in a series which has now topped 80 sessions. In ‘The diversity and terroir of the Lebanese Mountains’, CEO Jad el Esta and winemaker Gabi Rivero from high-flying Lebanese winery Ixsir took us back to the Romans and beyond, perhaps even to 6,000 BC, when wine grapes began to spread across a region of many terroirs and microclimates. The background story was fascinating, the environmental information surprising for those unfamiliar with a place where winter snows have the beneficial effect of removing the need to irrigate vines in summer or to treat them against pests, and Ixsir’s work to attempt to revive ancient varieties impressive. “The idea is to go back to our roots,” Jad emphasised.

This webinar prompted one of the best-ever debates in a Q&A session: topics ranging from action to retain freshness in the wines despite climate change, to the challenges of altitude – at 1,800 metres, Ixsir reckons some of its vines are the highest in the northern hemisphere – and its effect on harvest dates, from vintage differences to whether the troubled political past of Lebanon remains an issue. No, was the answer to that last question.

Again, the recording is a must-watch: https://youtu.be/Xc0CaQSkaLU, as is that of the earlier May session, https://youtu.be/00dtqAOi3bY, when Circle honorary secretary Meg Maker talked about her work on rethinking the lexicons of wine. Historic Euro-centred wine language has much to blame for the lack of relevance for modern consumers, especially the young and those from non-European backgrounds, she argued, among many more well-researched, relevant and positive opinions. This was another thought-provoking, wake-up-call seminar, further evidence of the diversity, world-wide relevance and broad value of the Circle’s online programme.


Photo of Cramele Recas