We all care about sustainability but how do we ensure that the wine we buy is sustainable? This blog outlines some of the things to consider when thinking about sustainable wine. Unfortunately there is no magic points system to classify wine as sustainable or not. Therefore we think the best thing to do is to consider the following factors:
- Grape growing
- Wine making
How the grapes are grown?
Grape growing is probably one of the more obvious areas where wine growers can limit their impact on the environment. We think the following considerations are important:
- Organic vs non-organic – When people think of sustainable wine, the first thought is often whether the grapes are grown organically or not. However, in terms of sustainability, organic isn’t always necessarily the best. In most cases, the only thing allowed to treat the vines in organic farming is Copper Sulphite. Overuse of this can have a detrimental impact on the local environment. So in a climate with lots of pests this is not always the best solution.
- Respecting the local environment – Winemakers can work with the local environment by employing strategies such as companion planting and encouraging wildlife, these can be great methods of pest control.
- Ethical treatment of people – In areas with high poverty such as South Africa, some winemakers take advantage of the local population with unfair rates of pay. Look for fair wage guarantees and community projects.
- Hand harvesting where possible – Hand harvesting minimises the impact on the local wildlife and also doesn’t create pollution. However, for some aromatic white varieties this is not always possible.
How is the wine made?
Many people think that it’s just the grape growing process that impacts the sustainability of the wine but the wine making process has a lot of impact too. The areas that are important to consider are as follows:
- Water use – The wine making process can use a lot of water and keeping this to a minimum is important especially in areas of low rainfall.
- Renewable energy – The wine making process also uses a fair amount of energy. In areas of high sunshine, the use of solar panels can reduce the energy footprint.
- Minimal sulphur to avoid waste – Sulphur is a preservative and without it wines can become unstable and undrinkable. Unless you have an allergy to sulphur, we generally wouldn’t recommend drinking wines without any sulphur. However, it is important that the winemakers usage of this is kept to a minimum.
How does the wine get to us?
The final point is how the wine gets to us, this has a few elements:
- How far has the wine travelled – This point speaks for itself, the less miles travelled the better!
- How the wine is packaged – Winemakers can ship their wine in lightweight bottles or ship in large containers with bottling in the UK. However, the large containers are plastic based so again some environmental impact.
- What is done to offset the shipping – Some winemakers will choose to offset their carbon use with things like bamboo farms. This is obviously more of a concern the further the wine has come.
So how do we ensure our wine is sustainable?
In short we believe that the wine should meet a large number of the following criteria in order to be sustainable:
- Minimise the use of pesticide by effective vineyard management. Employing strategies such as active canopy management, encouraging wildlife and only spraying when absolutely necessary.
- Minimise the use of water, particularly in areas of low rainfall.
- Be a fair wage employer and for bigger wineries, involvement in community projects.
- Use renewable energy in the winery.
- Use sulphur sparingly.
- Not use any animal products in the wine making process. (All of our wines meet this criteria).
- Minimise the impact of shipping the wine by using lightweight bottles, carbon offsetting or shipping in large tanks for rebottling.
- Be as local as possible.
- Hand harvested where possible.
You can read more about our ethical / sustainable policy here.
Five of our most sustainable wines
- Dunleavy Rosé – Dunleavy’s vineyard is approximately 10 miles away from our house. So in terms of miles travelled this has to be one of the best. Ingrid the wine grower also uses active canopy management to minimise the amount of spraying she needs to use.
- Artigianale Prosecco – This delightful Prosecco really ticks a lot of the boxes; the grapes are grown organically and the bottles are made from recycled glass. There is minimal sulphur in the wine and the winery uses 100% renewable energy.
- Boschendal Wines – Boschendal are a winemaker in South Africa who genuinely care about their impact on the environment. They are WWF certified, they minimise their water use in the winery and have planted a bamboo farm to offset the carbon used in shipping the wine. You can read more about their sustainability policy here.
- Polgoon Wines – A wine from Cornwall, once again winning on the distance category.
- Susana Balbo Wines – Susana is a winemaker in Argentina who hand harvests her grapes, minimises water use in the vineyard and winery, doesn’t use pesticides and runs projects in the local community. You can read more about her commitment here.