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Some CA Wineries Targets of Anti-Smog Measures

Posted by perle0 on 2005-10-16 01:35:37 (4862 views)

That glass of garnet-colored California merlot may caress the palate and delight the nose, but state officials say wineries also create a less agreeable byproduct: smog.

Now air-quality managers in California's San Joaquin Valley, where nearly two-thirds of domestic wine is produced, are cracking down. By year's end, local officials will propose the nation's first restrictions targeting pollution from winemaking.

Whether the end result is jammy, tannic or crisp, the fermentation of grapes to make wine creates pure alcohol, also known as ethanol, that is vented to the air. Ethanol vapors belong to a family of so-called organic chemicals that mix with others to form smog.

That might not be a problem if the valley's topography didn't trap organic chemicals and others, allowing them to fester. That leads to some of the nation's dirtiest air: Smog levels exceeded federal health limits on 109 days in 2004.

"We've got to do what we can to control emissions," Nester says. That means regulating wineries, even though they create only 0.3% of the valley's emission of smog-forming organic chemicals. Cars and trucks account for 37%.

Oenophiles -- wine lovers -- shouldn't fear for their favorite $50 California chardonnays. For starters, other winemaking regions in the state and across the country are unlikely to follow the valley's lead, because none of them have nearly as much smog. And the new rule would exempt white wines, which yield less pollution during production than reds.

Although the valley boasts more than 100 winemaking facilities, the rule will apply only to those that churn out the equivalent of 25 million bottles or more per year. That's 18 wineries, owned by giants such as E. & J. Gallo. They make mostly bargain-priced stuff, not the type of drink that inspires high-flown prose from wine critics.

For now, wineries are being allowed to compensate for their ethanol production by cutting back in other areas, such as reducing the polluting elements from their vehicles.

More details about the wineries and the politics of anti-smog laws.


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