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Embarking on a sustainable journey while savoring a glass of wine

The World in a Wineglass: A Guide to Sustainable Wines

By Chris Benz

Ray Isle, the executive wine editor at Food & Wine magazine, has always been passionate about camping, ecology, and the environment. In his new book, “The World in a Wineglass: The Insider’s Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now,” Isle explores the stories behind wines and winemakers who prioritize the environment in their grape-growing practices.

Isle’s journey into the world of wine began unexpectedly. He initially pursued a career in academia but developed an interest in wine through friends in graduate school. A writing fellowship at Stanford University brought him to the Bay Area, where he discovered his love for winetasting in Napa and Sonoma. Working bottlings for small wineries in exchange for wine became a turning point in his career. This led to writing for Wine and Spirits magazine and eventually landing a position at Food & Wine magazine in 2005.

Isle believes that every wine writer should experience at least one harvest working in a cellar. This hands-on experience provides a valuable education for the nose and palate, as well as a deeper understanding of the winemaking process.

During his time as a wine writer, Isle has witnessed significant changes in the industry, particularly in relation to climate change. Vintners across the globe are experiencing the effects of warming temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns. Harvest dates have advanced in many regions, and winegrowers are implementing strategies such as planting higher up slopes or cultivating heat-tolerant grape varieties to adapt to these changes. Additionally, there is a growing focus on soil health and its connection to terroir expression. Living soil, rich in microbial life, plays a crucial role in trapping carbon and maintaining ecological balance.

Isle’s book aims to introduce readers to affordable wines (under $100) that represent both the passion of the winemaker and the unique characteristics of the terroir. He discovered that all the winegrowers he was interested in featured in his book practiced sustainable, organic, biodynamic, or regenerative farming. Sustainability in agriculture is defined by three main pillars: environmental protection, social equity, and economic viability.

“The World in a Wineglass” also delves into the efforts made by grape-growers and winemakers to reduce emissions and minimize the carbon footprint of their wines. Surprisingly, nearly a third of wine’s carbon footprint comes from the production and transportation of glass bottles. Shipping glass bottles across the world significantly increases this footprint. The book profiles a wide range of winemakers, from small-scale operations to large vineyards, all committed to sustainable farming practices.

Ray Isle will be discussing his book and sharing stories of environmentally conscious wines at Napa Bookmine on February 2nd. This event is an opportunity to learn about wines that not only taste good but also make a positive impact on the planet.

About the Author:
Chris Benz is a retired winemaker and co-founder of Napa Climate NOW!, a nonprofit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science. Napa Climate NOW! is a part of 350 Bay Area. For more information, visit

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