Winning Wine: How to make the sustainable choice #englishwineweek

We spoke to three of our members who are keen to ensure wine production is green, and that no wine goes to waste.

From our friends at Bibendum Wines

What are the three main things to consider when looking for sustainable wine?

The three key things to consider when looking for sustainable wine are do to with soil, resources and people.

  • Soil – Does the process of grape growing leave the soil in the same, or a better state than when you started? Key labels to look our for here are ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’. Organic wine is made without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides; and biodynamic wine is the same, but with the addition of a selection of prescribed natural ‘preparations’ made from natural material such as cow manure, dandelion and yarrow. More information on these terms can be found on our website. Some examples of the organic and biodynamic producers that we work with are also in the attached ‘Mindful Winemaking’ booklet.
  • Resources – does the wine producer make efforts to reduce their use of energy, water and carbon? For example Rioja producer Bodegas Bhilar uses horses instead of tractors in his vineyard and uses solar panels to power his ‘off-grid’ winery
  • People – does the wine support the local community? For example Garage Wine Co. in Chile works with local growers whose families have been farming the land for generations. Without the support of Garage Wine Co. these growers would have to sell their grapes as ‘bulk’ for very little money, but with Garage, they are given a fair price and able to see their grapes turned into the quality of wine they deserve.
What is one key trend developing around sustainable wine in 2019 that you would like to see gain traction and support?

The interest in (and market for) organic wine is growing (as you can see in these infographics). It would be great if this continued to gain traction and support, so that we can all drink better quality wine, made with fewer chemicals while caring for the planet at the same time. These wines may cost a bit more sometimes, but shouldn’t we all think about ‘drinking less but better’…?

From our friends at Liberty Wines

What are the three main things to consider when looking for sustainable wine?
  • Consider every stage of the journey from grape to glass. It is key to ask questions in order to understand the whole story and not focus on just one element of production. Organic and biodynamic certification can be helpful markers and offer many reassurances to consumers, but what of the potential environmental cost of certification which may require many more sprays and tractor passes to cope with disease or atypical conditions? The impact of transporting bulk wine may be less than for wine bottled at source, but if it was industrially-made with the corresponding high levels of water and energy usage this benefit may be offset. So-called ‘natural wines’ may seem the answer but what if they are distributed exclusively in small batches by road or there are elevated levels of spoilage? There is no one right answer so the more information you have, the better.
  • Sustainable doesn’t have to mean small when it comes to wine production. What matters is the vision and commitment of the producer, whether it is a 10 hectare biodynamic producer in the Loire or someone that produces on a larger scale further afield. For example, Bodega Garzon, who have more than 1,000 small vineyard blocks in Uruguay, have designed their whole operation around minimising environmental impact, while Montes in Chile have pioneered dry-farming methods, drastically reducing water usage. The scale of their achievements can serve as inspiration to others and promote dialogue about what is possible in the field.
  • Sustainable also means paying a fair price. If we want producers to make sustainable choices in their vineyards and wineries, we must support them by paying a price for the wine that allows them to make a living, to invest in equipment, to work and distribute their wines efficiently, and to plan for the future. This doesn’t just mean listing more expensive wines, however, it means giving consumers a reason to spend more by sharing the stories and the ethos behind the wine so they understand that what they are getting is actually better value than a cheaper alternative.
What is one key trend developing around sustainable wine in 2019 that you would like to see gain traction and support?

We have seen a rise in customers asking questions about the wines they buy, and we would encourage more of this. Suppliers should always be able to supply the information that allows you to make informed choices. By understanding more about the end-to-end sustainability of the wine you buy, you are able to sell the wines with confidence to consumers.

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