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How Pancho Campo is Tackling the Climate Crisis Through Green Wine Future 2022

Plus 3 premium wines that have shaped the climate crusader’s work

Janice Williams By May 17, 2022
photo illustration of Pancho Campo with wine bottles in background
Photo illustration by Pix

As a child, Pancho Campo had dreams of becoming a superhero. But his desire wasn’t for teleportation or superhuman strength. 

“I used to tell my father that the most powerful superhero is the one that controls the climate. That’s the kind of superhero I wanted to be,” says Campo.

Controlling the climate, of course, is impossible. However, that early interest in weather, environment and its causes and effects has stuck with him. Today, Campo is doing whatever he can to create change for the better.

A long road

“What really triggered my interest in studying climate change was the summer of 2003 in Europe,” says Campo. “There was a massive heatwave. It was short but very strong and hotter than any other heatwave I could ever remember.”

Campo, an avid skier, says he also began to notice drastic changes in the weather during the ski season. There was either too much snow or not enough snow, and the length of the cold season was beginning to fluctuate. 

“I knew something weird was happening with the climate. I began to study, reading books and every bit of information I could find about climate change,” says Campo, who was also deep into his wine studies at the same time.

A former professional tennis player, Campo’s dedication to wine led him to establish organizations like The Wine Academy of Spain and the Spanish Wine Experience. Then came a moment in 2006 when he realized there was a direct link between wine and the changing climate. 

“I realized you need to have good grapes to make good wine. You need the influence of sunlight, ultraviolet radiation, temperature, humidity, and rainfall. And those aspects are the patterns that climate change is changing,” says Campo.

This realization inspired him to organize an international conference on climate change and wine.

It was a flop. Only about 80 people showed up to what Campo hoped would be a 200-person event. But two good things did come of it. Many of those who attended were journalists from big media outlets like National Geographic and BBC who “were all very curious to know who is this crazy guy putting climate change next to the wine industry,” Campo jokes.

The event also caught the attention of former Vice President Al Gore, who invited Campo to attend a two-day training for climate change leaders. It didn’t take long for Campo to convince Gore to be a keynote speaker at his next climate change conference

“The conference that had started out with just 80 people went to 800 delegates coming from more than 70 countries in just two years,” says Campo.

Since then, Campo has become one of the loudest voices calling on the wine industry to address its role in climate change and implement solutions that can help reduce wine’s carbon footprint. He has worked with climate leaders worldwide to host numerous large-scale international trade conferences on climate change. Even former President Barack Obama served as a keynote speaker at an event in 2018.

And soon, Campo will ring the alarm for climate change once again.

“We all can learn from each other. There are people in different areas of business that have similar problems because of the climate crisis, from guys growing coffee, table grapes, or olive trees. They are suffering the same kind of problems as people in the wine industry,” says Campo. 

Green Wine Future 2022

From May 23 to May 26, Campo and his Planet Future Foundation will hold the Green Wine Future event, a virtual global conference on climate change. More than 150 speakers across multiple countries will unite to address the planet’s most critical climate issues. 

“We are seeing more interest from companies and governments in tackling the climate crisis and protecting the environment, but still we have too many issues around it that prevent us from stopping the level of CO2 or greenhouse gases from going up,” says Campo. 

He adds, “We want to educate people on the realities of what’s happening to our planet and the effects of the climate crisis. But we also want to show people that citizens, companies, and governments are taking action and implementing positive solutions that we all can benefit from.”

While viewers will hear from some of the most influential names in wine like Miguel Torres, Katie Jackson, and Gérard Bertrand, Green Wine Future 2022 will include more than just wine professionals. Leaders across various industries will also appear, from New Zealand’s Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor to Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert, film producer, and environmental activist Trudie Styler, and Sylvia Earle, the award-winning marine biologist and oceanographer featured in Netflix’s critically acclaimed documentary “Seaspiracy.”

“We all can learn from each other. There are people in different areas of business that have similar problems because of the climate crisis, from guys growing coffee, table grapes, or olive trees. They are suffering the same kind of problems as people in the wine industry,” says Campo. 

What consumers can do

Campo says there are steps consumers can take to combat climate change whether they sign up for Green Wine Future or not. They can start by seeking out wines from producers, importers, and distributors who actively try to protect the environment. And shop local.

The most important thing to do, though, Campo notes, is to “vote for leaders who have a climate program compatible with our ideas.”

“Read the program, and vote for the program — not for the man or the party. And we have to hold leaders in our industries, cities, and nations accountable,” says Campo.

A few of Pancho Campo’s favorite bottles:

bottle of Château Léoville Poyferré - St.-Julien 2020

Château Léoville Poyferré 2018 (~$107)

Campo’s love for Château Léoville Poyferré extends back to 2011, when he was able to taste a 2009 vintage of the winery’s Bordeaux blend during a Green Wine Future tasting event in Hong Kong. A deep garnet color with intense aromas of red and black fruits and a juicy palate with depth, this wine was “one of the best of the tasting,” according to Campo.

bottle of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2020

Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020 (~$153)

During a trip to Bordeaux in 2008, Campo had the chance to visit Château Smith Haut Lafitte. His affection for the winery’s signature complex and structured red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot was immediate. However, the Olympian fostered a genuine connection with the organic winery after learning that Daniel Cathiard, Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s owner, was an Olympic participant too. “Daniel opened a bottle of the 1961 Bordeaux for me after realizing we both performed in the Olympics. And that vintage is from the year I was born, making it even more special,” Campo says.

bottle of Kongsgaard "The Judge" Napa Valley Chardonnay

Kongsgaard The Judge Chardonnay 2017 (~$787)

This low-intervention Napa Valley Chardonnay is produced by Kongsgaard, a winery that has received numerous accolades from critics and a 100-point score from Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate for its 2013 vintage of The Judge Chardonnay. This rich, aromatic wine holds a special place in Campo’s heart. “This is my wife’s favorite wine that we like to enjoy together,” says Campo, adding, “And this is the wine we drank for my 60th birthday after John Kongsgaard gifted me a bottle for the occasion.”