There’s no denying that global warming is a pretty serious issue, and the wine industry can’t always hide from being part of the problem. The use of pesticides, herbicides, emissions produced in the winery and by tractors, as well as those produced to ship bottles of wine all over the world, all contribute to the damaging effects of global warming. But not all is lost! More and more wineries are becoming ecologically friendly by making their vineyards organic or biodynamic, which limits the use of damaging practices! But what if there were even more drastic ways the industry could limit their carbon footprint? I’m talking carbon neutral wines.
I had to do a lot of research on this topic because I thought there was no way you could make a carbon neutral wine without losing out on all the great things that makes up a wine, but to my very pleasant surprise, this was not the case. One of the largest organic wine producers in Chile, De Martino was the first certified carbon-neutral winery in South America. Their devotion to preserving their land includes measuring their environmental impact and producing wines that accurately characterise Chile’s individuality.
I thought that wine could not be 100% carbon neutral, as carbon dioxide is released during the fermentation process, but it turns out that this is more of a natural by-product as it is sourced from nature, as opposed to directly burning fossil fuels. But wineries can limit their other carbon-producing activities, by saving energy or switching to non-carbon-based fuels, even the English wineries are getting involved!
Bothy, a vineyard based in Oxfordshire, has created sustainable measures such as intelligent use of fungicides and herbicides to minimise their use and any negative environmental impact. Electricity used is 100% from renewable sources - some of which is generate on site. They use native Sweet Chestnut posts for the trellis which have a very low (or possibly negative) carbon footprint and provide over-wintering homes for many of the beneficial insects which live in the vineyard. And an astounding 95% of winery waste is composted on site.
So, without further ado, and not to sound like I’m writing a university assignment, I will try and pass on what I have learnt!
Wine production = good. During the grape’s growing season, CO2 is removed by the vines’ growth and production of sugar in the grapes. This is more than the CO2 emitted by the biomass (plant or animal material used for energy production) and during the fermentation process - to such a level that production and fermentation of 1 kg of grapes reduces the CO2 by approx. 0,3 kg. Excitingly, the production of higher alcohol wines removes more CO2, something we definitely can get behind.
While no bottle is 100% biodegradable, the CO2 footprint of any type of packaging can be reduced drastically by reducing the weight of the packaging and increasing the % of recycled material that goes into the packaging. A lot has been argued about wine stoppages. In fact, the eco-impact of closures on the overall eco-impact of a bottle of wine is very small. Production of a natural cork has a lower impact (1 g CO2 per bottle) on the environment than alternative closures such as synthetic cork or screw caps (3 g CO2). But synthetic corks and screwcaps lessen the occurrence of wine spoilage, so pros and cons…
Most CO2 in the wine industry is caused by transport and by the choice of packaging. Typically transport generates between 55% and 65% of all CO2 generated in the production, packaging, and distribution of a wine. However, it is a myth that wines from overseas by definition generate more CO2 than wines from our own continent. What is important is not the distance, but the mode of transport used. Sea transport is far more eco-friendly per km than road transport and transporting wine in bulk and bottling it close to destination can save 35-50% in transport CO2.
These measures would have no negative impact on the loss of flavour of a wine, so essentially being carbon neutral is a big win-win! While the UK may not entirely be able to run on solar power, we certainly can use the wind, which will limit the burning of fossil fuels for energy consumption in the wineries! Now I’m not saying changes can be made overnight, but one day I hope all wineries will become carbon neutral!
TLDR; (Stands for too long, didn’t read. The Boss didn’t know what it stood for either, but I like to educate)
Carbon neutral ideas = good for the environment:
- Organic or Biodynamic wine producing methods.
- Wineries with Environmental Management Systems and Policies.
- Higher alcohol wines!
- Light weight packaging.
- Packaging material with high recycled content.
- Easily recyclable packaging (i.e. easily separable and re-usable materials)
- Spoil-proof closures.
- Prefer sea transport over air transport.
- Wine shipped in bulk and bottled close to market of destination.
- Local produce in eco-friendly packaging and with limited road transport.
Here at the English Vine, we are also passionate about preserving the environment. We are looking into paper packaging, zero waste wine (check out more here) and wine kegging (this is actually super cool, will write something about this soon!). You’ll also have to look out for our brand-new electric car that will be used for local deliveries!
So, without sounding like a Debbie downer, but everyone is responsible for their impact on the environment, let’s make it a good one!
Cheers to you Vine-Os!
Mumma Vino x