What Makes a Wine Sustainable?

By March 3, 2017 News No Comments

Nowadays many of us conscious shoppers will endeavor to source groceries that are sustainable as possible. Whether it’s line-caught salmon, organically grown veggies or meat with a lesser environmental impact, food trends show that consumers are thinking about what ends up on the dinner table.

But what about wine? Considering sustainability when it comes to our go-to vino is beginning to hit the mainstream, which is great news for the environment and our delicate carbon footprints.

Vineyards at Guado al Melo, an Italian winery that puts sustainability at the core of its ethos

What exactly is sustainable wine? Wine production faces much the same issues as food when it comes to sustainability. Unfortunately, unlike organic and biodynamic wines, there’s a lot of conflicting information that muddies the water. While there are few international sustainability standards, there are key practices that many growers and producers are adopting to ensure their wines are as sustainable as possible.

Here’s a brief low down on key themes in sustainable wine production.

Energy efficiency  

Many wine growers will invest in sustainable energy practices, such as implementing energy-efficient irrigation systems or installing wind turbines and solar panels to offset power usage and management costs. Simple steps such as limiting the use of tractors and heavy machinery, or even harvesting at night can help to save energy and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the finished product.

Vines growing at Dominio de Punctum, a Spanish winery dedicated to combining tradition with sustainable winemaking

Environmental Conservation

Managing vineyards with acres upon acres of growing vines is a difficult business, especially when taking the ecosystem into account. Sustainable wine growers aim to keep the environment as healthy as possible from ground up, this will include preventing soil erosion, maintaining soil health with rotational crops and encouraging healthy populations of indigenous flora and fauna, and pest predators.

Water limitation

Although growing grapes require far less water than other crops, maximizing water usage and minimizing waste is essential to creating sustainable wines. Drip irrigation is one of the best ways to water vines, while a combination of hi-tech monitoring systems and grower expertise are employed to constantly analyze the health of vines.

Michele and Annalisa Scienze, the people behind the Guado al Melo winery

Technology 

The wine industry has been revolutionized by technological developments that contribute to sustainable wine production by reducing energy consumption, energy and running costs. For example, state of the art bottling machines will minimize wastage while modern insulated tanks will limit the need for heating or refrigeration.

Import and Export

It’s also worth considering how the wine you choose arrives on the shelf. Sustainable exported wines will be transported by sea, a far more environmentally friendly option that reduces an otherwise hefty carbon footprint of wine transported by air-freight.

Vineyards owned by the Perrin family, one of the first in France to embrace more sustainable methods of winemaking

As it stands, the sustainability of wine is an umbrella term covering a whole range of variables ranging from environmentally friendly practices and the implementation of innovative technology. As more and more consumers search for low-impact wines, the future looks bright for the standardization of sustainable practices.

What you can do

If sustainable wine is your priority, there are two simple steps you can take to make sure your wine was produced with the environment in mind. Firstly, read the wine label and get to know more about the producers you revisit often. Secondly, find a vendor or importer that sources only sustainable wines – this means they’ll do the hard work so you don’t have to.

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