Robert De Niro and partners to open a garden hotel in Poland

May 29, 2020 by  
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If a glimpse into history is on your bucket list, a stay at the soon-to-open Nobu hotel in Poland can help put a check in that column. Decimated by World War II, the city of Warsaw originated in the 1300s and has been under meticulous reconstruction for decades. Blending the old with the new, historical architecture is balanced with nearby neighborhoods that are alive with trendy wine bars, art galleries and cafes. Joining the creative hub is the newest addition to the Nobu family of hotels being built by Nobu Hospitality, a globally established lifestyle brand owned by actor Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper. The heart of this capital city will be the site of the V-shaped hotel. Nobu Hotel Warsaw will feature 117 sleek and spacious rooms along with meeting and event spaces, an expansive fitness center and the signature Nobu Restaurant and café. “Nobu Hotel Warsaw is a really exciting project for us,” said Trevor Horwell, Chief Executive Officer of Nobu Hotels . “The luxury hospitality market has been gaining momentum in Warsaw for a while. There’s a certain type of energy that extends far beyond the bricks and mortar – we’re very excited to be at the forefront of this new wave of lifestyle and hospitality development – and being from Poland originally, this opening is particularly exciting for our co-founder Meir Teper.” While luxury and the location are undeniably enticing, the building design also represents a marriage of the historic with modern elements that feed a need to completely understand the multifaceted city. Half of the hotel is housed in what used to be the Hotel Rialto, a building dating back to the 1920s that represents Art Deco design elements. A lobby connects this sample of Warsaw’s past to the other wing of the hotel, an ultra-contemporary space designed in collaboration with Polish architectural firm Medusa Group and California-based Studio PCH. The outdoor space features a pyramid of balconies with living gardens for a contrast of green space to cityscape. Hotel Nobu Warsaw is one of 18 hotels by Nobu Hospitality spanning five continents, each offering premium service, unique design elements and an extraordinary culinary experience. The Hotel Nobu Warsaw is expected to open in August 2020. + Nobu Hotel Images via ?ukasz K?pielewski

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This is one of the only LEED Gold-certified hotels in Spain

November 20, 2019 by  
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Opened in March 2018 and located in Madrid, Spain, the VP Plaza España Design hotel is committed to sustainability efforts in both its design and daily practices. The hotel implements recycling and solid waste management programs and even continuous education on sustainable operation practices for the staff as well as incentives for guests to reduce their environmental impact. The hotel is one of the few in its country to earn LEED Gold certification as a mark of excellence from the U.S. Green Building Council. The 5-star hotel was able to secure the coveted certification with its high scores in sustainable setting, design, water and energy use efficiency and use of quality materials and resources. Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood The hotel has implemented several measures to reduce energy consumption. These include thermal enclosures and installations, a lighting and energy system with motion detectors to save energy when the lights aren’t in use, daylight sensors to measure and adjust electric lighting and window sensors that open and close window shades depending on the daylight. In terms of water efficiency, the hotel has selected plants for its outdoor landscaping that require less irrigation. Systems throughout the property monitor water consumption and bathrooms while using high-efficiency fixtures and fittings, such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow showers. These environmental initiatives have reduced water consumption by nearly 33 percent. The building monitors outdoor air ventilation levels, and intelligent controls are utilized for lighting and thermal systems. To further support high air quality inside the hotel, the design team used low-VOC paints. Additionally, the hotel sourced building materials locally, including the furniture and artwork, with wood sourced from responsibly managed forests . This focus on materials supports local economic growth while minimizing the environmental footprint. The general manager of VP Plaza España Design, Francisco Garcia de Oro, has high hopes that the hotel can become an example for sustainability throughout Spain . “For us, being environmentally responsible is not an option but an obligation. We hope to continue to raise the bar in sustainable tourism and will continue to seek ways to improve our operation every day.” + VP Plaza España Design Images via VP Plaza España Design

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This is one of the only LEED Gold-certified hotels in Spain

Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine

February 28, 2019 by  
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Researchers have discovered Glyphosate — an ingredient found in some weedkillers — in name brand wines and beers . Scientists from U.S. PIRG tested 20 different alcoholic brands and found the troubling ingredient in 19 of the labels. Currently, a federal judge is examining the correlation between glyphosate and cancer, as trial has begun against Monsanto, the company behind the popular weedkiller , Roundup, for allegedly causing the plantiff’s cancer. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers The director of U.S. PIRG, Kara Cook-Schultz, believes this is the perfect time to look at glyphosate and warn people that it is more widely spread than most suspect. “This chemical could prove a true risk to so many Americans’ health, and they should know that it is everywhere – including in many of their favorite drinks,” Cook-Schultz explained. Sutter Home Merlot had the most glyphosate with 51.4 parts per billion (ppb). But many of the wines and beers on the list were well above 25 ppb, including Beringer Moscato, Barefoot Sauvignon, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Budweiser and Corona. The only drink that did not test positive for glyphosate was an organic IPA from Peak Beer. These numbers, while troubling, are below what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) considers the safety threshold. William Reeves, a toxicologist employed by Bayer, noted that the numbers are 100 times less than the recommended maximum exposure limit. For reference, a person would have to consume an entire bottle of Sutter Home Merlot wine every minute for their entire life just to reach the upper limits of what is considered safe. That said, even trace amounts of glyphosate could have negative health benefits. In the study from U.S. PIRG, the group found that tiny amounts of glyphosate, on the order of 1 part per trillion, could cause cancer cells to grow in breast tissue. The active ingredient also wreaks havoc on the endocrine system, though at what levels is still uncertain. It should be noted that the EPA does not consider glyphosate to be a cancer causing agent in humans, though the World Health Organization did label it as possibly carcinogenic four years ago. Via Eco Watch Image via Shutterstock

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Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine

Azulik, an eco-paradise in Tulum, celebrates the four natural elements

February 28, 2019 by  
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The four elements of earth, fire, water and air are reflected in every material, design and spa offering throughout the campus of the Azulik eco resort in Tulum, Mexico. With the goals of conservation and fair-trade at every turn, Azulik is a 48-villa haven of relaxation built seamlessly into the jungle and along the postcard-perfect shoreline of the Caribbean Sea. All of the villas are hand-built from wood with eco-friendly materials sourced locally. There are a range of accommodation styles, each centered around one of the four natural elements, with a focus on relaxation, rejuvenation and healing. Each villa contains a traditional Mayan mosaic tile or volcanic stone tub, extra king-sized beds, mosquito nets and immersive views. Some are intricately interwoven into the surrounding jungle while others hover on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. Some special features exclusive to select villas include outdoor hot tubs, private stairways and even a 24/7 butler service. One obvious omission from the villas is electricity, including a lack of television, radios, Wi-Fi and lights. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson The lack of electricity highlights the natural aspect of Azulik, noted by the candle-lit walkways and rooms. It’s not difficult to absorb the natural surroundings with walkways that meander throughout the property. These walkways are designed around existing trees for preservation. Nestled along the gorgeous Caribbean, the property also houses a cenote that feeds traditional mineral water into the villa bathtubs (sorry, no showers here). The on-property wetlands area provides water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. When you drag yourself away from your villa, you can explore the property and the surrounding area through the Mystikal Wanders program, which immerses guests in a unique blend of culture, nature and local history. Follow a tribe guide to meet a traditional shaman and Mayan family, swim in the mineral waters of the cenote and explore the Mayan jungle and ruins. Participate in meditation, paddle yoga, spiritual rituals and massages, or get away on a catamaran to snorkel and explore the sea. On site, take in the IK Lab, an environmentally-conscious art gallery that highlights the work of a variety of local and resident artists. The spa offers a variety of options to disconnect from hurried modern life with processes that highlight spiritual heritage and natural healing. Experience biomagnetism, a temazcal, medicinal music circles, workshops, shamanic chant, yoga, sound massages and human design techniques for memories exclusive to Azulik. While this eco-paradise offers an array of memorable culinary, art, spa, cultural and historical experiences, it won’t come cheap with a price tag ranging from $700-$7000 per night. + Azulik Images via Azulik

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This is how climate change will impact wine

February 14, 2019 by  
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Look at a wine label or chat with a wine connoisseur, and you will find that wine has always been intimately connected to location and climate. Grapes taste different from region to region, and even grapes from the same vineyard taste different from year to year, depending on the weather each season. So it is no surprise that drastically changing weather patterns have a huge and confusing impact on the wine industry. Increasing temperatures and climate volatility not only impact the flavor profiles for wine enthusiasts, but the unreliability also has a negative impact on wine farmers . Climate scientists argue that growers need to start implementing adaptation measures  and experiment with lesser-known varieties of grapes, but these solutions come with risks and expenses that are often too costly for farmers. The last four years have been the hottest on record , a drastic change for grapes that generally thrive in cool, temperate climates. Unpredictable weather, such as droughts, heatwaves and hail can devastate farmers of all kinds, but grapes are a particularly sensitive and vulnerable crop. In Sonoma County, a region in California known for wine production, a record-breaking wildfire devastated the county in 2017, followed by an even more devastating, record-breaking fire in 2018. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley Even in cases of more subtle changes, the impact on sensitive grapes is noticeable. Soil salinity is changing in some regions as a result of sea level rise, and many farmers struggle with increased pests and diseases. Typically, winter frost kills off pest larva, reducing the population in spring, but when temperatures no longer reach below freezing, the populations continue to grow. Wine’s climate connection The wine industry is highly dependent on subtle climate and soil characteristics. In fact, enthusiasts argue that wines are made from four ingredients: the weather, the soil, the topography and the grape. Wine is often defined by its terroir , a word derived from the Latin word terra , meaning earth. It is used to describe a wine’s “sense of place” — in other words, the very specific microclimate and soil of a particular area. To understand the specificity with which soil and temperature characteristics impact the wine, it is important to note one vineyard alone might contain many different microclimates. For example, the slope and orientation of a row might dictate how much sun the grapes receive. Weather affects the grape’s sugar content, acidity and tannin content. As temperatures increase, grapes are ripe and ready to harvest sooner than usual. If left on the vine, the sugar and alcohol content will rise past acceptable (and delicious) levels. Unfortunately, harvesting grapes earlier means they also lose their complexity and the quality that successful vineyards and their customers rely on. In New Zealand, for example, where 85 percent of exported wine is Savignon Blanc, the world renowned “acidic gooseberry” flavor profile is becoming more of a “mellow tropical fruit.” Climate-smart agriculture for wine growers Many farmers have begun to implement climate-smart agriculture practices on their land; however, broad changes and new technology are still unattainable for some growers. Examples of adaptation measures include cover cropping and drip irrigation to conserve soil and water , nets to protect vines from hail and limiting the height of vines. Other farmers are planting on south-facing slopes to reduce sun exposure, while some farmers are going so far as to relocate their entire vineyards to cooler climates and higher altitudes. Even the more modest solutions require significant costs in terms of new equipment and additional labor. One frost fan alone, which controls the temperature variation on the vines, can cost $40,000 . Researchers suggest lesser-known grapes Researchers argue that experimenting with lesser-known varieties of grapes is one solution that farmers should invest in. In a recent Harvard University publication , assistant professor Elizabeth Wolkovich explained, “There are more than 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 percent of the wine market in many countries. We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change .” Farmers, however, are hesitant to experiment, because new varieties come with risk as well as changes to their brand. In Europe, only three varieties of grapes can legally be labeled as champagne. Champagne farmers are therefore uninterested in testing other varieties, because they will lose their name and their market share. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change In other regions, like the U.S. and Australia, labeling requirements are less strict; therefore, farmers have more freedom to experiment. Still, customers largely buy based on grape name recognition, such as “pinot noir.” Changing the grape means introducing new names and flavors to customers, which is a marketing challenge many vineyards are not excited to take on. In addition, experimentation is a risky and long-term solution. Christine Collier Clair,  director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon, explained , “When you plant, you won’t get your first crop for four years, and your first wines in six years. And you won’t know if it’s a really great site for maybe 20 years.” The wine industry is in a difficult and critical moment of decision. Growers must decide now to risk investing land and money into new practices and uncertain grapes or else risk serious problems from an uncertain future. Via New Zealand Herald Images via Qimono , Chee Hong , Bernard Spragg and Tjabeljan

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Prosecco production is destroying soil in some Italian vineyards

January 28, 2019 by  
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Many people enjoy a glass of prosecco with their dinner , because it pairs well with everything from seafood to spicy Asian dishes. But the demand for the Italian sparkling wine is starting to cause some problems. According to a new study released earlier this month, the wine is destroying the soil in northeastern Italy’s vineyards. The amount of soil erosion from Italy’s prosecco vineyards is not sustainable, according to Jesus Rodrigo Comino, a geographer at the Institute of Geomorphology and Soils in Malaga, Spain. Even though he wasn’t involved in the study, he said that the future of the vineyards could be in jeopardy. Italy’s prosecco vineyards produce about 90 million bottles of the sparkling wine each year. After growing concerns about the skyrocketing demand of prosecco and its effect on the local environment, researchers from the University of Padua in Italy decided to look into the “soil footprint” of high-quality prosecco. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley After studying 10 years of data for rainfall, land use, soil  and topographic maps, they found that prosecco was responsible for three-quarters of total soil erosion in the region. Then, they compared the soil erosion numbers with annual prosecco sales and came up with an annual “soil footprint” of 4.4 kilograms per bottle. It is worth noting that soil erosion isn’t always negative. To keep an ecosystem healthy, the erosion can help generate new soils. But that doesn’t mean that this current trend with prosecco production should continue. Scientists said that vineyard owners can reduce soil loss by leaving grass between the rows. According to simulations, this one solution could reduce total erosion by half. Other ideas include planting hedges and other greenery around the vineyards and also by the rivers and streams. According to Comino, “Only the application of nature-based solutions will be able to reduce or solve the problem.” Via Science News Image via seogolic0

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Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants

September 24, 2018 by  
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After over three years of planning, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has completed the new home for Noma, an award-winning, Michelin-star restaurant that was named four times as the best in the world by the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ rankings. Opened February 2018, Noma’s new restaurant location is just outside of Copenhagen’s city center on a lakefront site near the Christiania neighborhood. The 14,000-square-foot building is modeled after a garden village that consists of 11 single-story pavilions, each specially designed to realize chef René Redzepi’s vision for seasonal and local New Nordic cuisine. Last year, chef René Redzepi closed his original two-Michelin-starred Noma after 14 years of operation in a 16th century harborside warehouse. During the one-year closure of his restaurant, Redzepi worked together with architect Bjarke Ingels to sensitively reimagine a new property and an existing ex-military warehouse into “an intimate garden village” made up of a series of interconnected, agrarian-inspired structures centered around the restaurant’s heart: the 600-square-foot kitchen. “The new noma dissolves the traditional idea of a restaurant into its constituent parts and reassembles them in a way that puts the chefs at the heart of it all,” Bjarke Ingels explained. “Every part of the restaurant experience — the arrival, the lounge, the barbecue, the wine selection and the private company — is all clustered around the chefs. From their central position, they have a perfect overview to every corner of the restaurant while allowing every single guest to follow what would traditionally happen behind-the-scenes. Each ‘building within the building’ is connected by glass-covered paths that allow chefs and guests to follow the changes in weather, daylight and seasons — making the natural environment an integral part of the culinary experience.” Related: “The world’s best restaurant,” Noma, to close and reopen as an urban farm The historic, 100-meter-long concrete warehouse was renovated to house all of the restaurant’s back-of-house functions, including the prep kitchen, fermentation labs, fish tanks, terrarium, ant farm and breakout areas for staff. Three of the new structures are built of glass, with one serving as a greenhouse, another as a bakery and the last as the test kitchen. The dining spaces are located in other buildings constructed from a minimalist and natural materials palette that includes oak and brick. + BIG + Noma Images © Rasmus Hjortshoj

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A quirky bar in Shanghai is built from colorful recycled materials

September 24, 2018 by  
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A playful piece of Brazil has popped up on the streets of Shanghai in the form of Barraco, a Brazilian-themed bar designed by local practice Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research (Q&A) and built with reclaimed materials sourced from demolition sites across the city. With ceilings constructed of colorful recycled doors and hanging swings used for bar seating, this whimsical hangout exudes a beach house feel with tropical drinks to match. The use of recycled and found materials also helps capture the “informal, messy and colorful atmosphere of tropical cities,” according to the architects. Slotted into a narrow rectangular site with a total area of 915 square feet, Barraco consists of an indoor bar and an outdoor bar protected beneath a large canopy. To keep the bars from descending into a confusing assortment of colors and textures, the designers grounded the project with a neutral background of bare concrete, timber and white gravel. Against this muted palette the firm then layered a “controlled chaos” of hanging plants , multicolored furnishings, corrugated tin surfaces and driftwood-like swings that hang from the ceiling. “The double nature of materials and textures reflects a double nature of use: the more quiet, dimly lit indoor bar sets provides a quiet retreat for an afternoon coffee, while the outdoor bar with projecting canopy becomes a part of Shanghai’s active streets at night,” Q&A said in a project statement. Related: Enchanting vertical garden is really a flora-filled bar in disguise “Seating areas are organized according to the same principle,” the architects continued, “with a set of movable low stools and beach chairs outside being the only furniture, besides the hanging wooden swings surrounding the bar, matched indoors by a set of comfortable armchairs and high-stools [that surround] a hanging table/door, which can be operated and pulled toward the ceiling to provide more space during a bigger party or event.” + Q&A Via ArchDaily Images by Dirk Weiblen

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A quirky bar in Shanghai is built from colorful recycled materials

Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change

August 9, 2018 by  
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Planning to pull out a bottle of chilled champagne in celebration of your latest accomplishment? Not so fast. The seasonal shifts in temperature that have become more and more extreme over the years are affecting grape production in regions around the world, and that includes the famous Champagne region in France. Champagne grapes depend on a cool climate and chalky soil in order to produce the crisp, fruity taste they are known for. But climate change is making these factors less dependable, and champagne producers in France are worried about the future. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley In an interview with Bloomberg, Antoine Malassagne, co-owner of champagne maker A.R. Lenoble, explained the difficulties now involved in champagne production. “Harvest is two weeks earlier than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It used to be mid-to-late September. Now harvest often starts in August, as it will this year. But maturity during hot days and nights results in lower and lower acidity in the grapes, which means less freshness in the wines.” The lower acidity is also problematic for producers, given that acidity is what allows champagne to age, creating the wine’s unique taste. A.R. Lenoble has been combating the gustatory alterations to its products by mixing in reserve wines from older vintages. Louis Roederer, another champagne compnay, has begun experimenting with DNA analysis of yeast and biodynamic viticulture to try and head off the impacts of climate change. Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the company’s chef de cave, has spearheaded these efforts in search of a way “to maintain what has made Champagne’s reputation.” Despite the potential challenges facing champagne producers, Lecaillon is optimistic. “We invented bubbles to make up for unripe grapes. As farmers, our job, our life, our passion has been to adapt to climate change for hundreds of years. If the future heats up too much,” he said, “we’ll just have to make Burgundy.” Via Bloomberg Image by  Anthony Delanoix  on  Unsplash

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