Sustainability isn’t a trend, it’s a reality and a necessity. No industry is safe from the effects of climate change, but wine production has been acutely aware of the threat for ages. When your livelihood is tied to the nuances of the seasons, it is hard not to be. But there are plenty of other ways climate change has impacted wine production and vice versa beyond fickle weather and shifting soil make-ups. In fact, according to Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance, almost half of a wine’s carbon footprint comes from the production and packaging of wine.
Wine makers and lovers alike are eager to support eco-friendly wine operations and wines, but how green is any one winery? Well, you can start answering that question as early as construction.
By sourcing local and eco-friendly materials, in both the construction of the winery itself and for day-to-day operations, wineries can greatly reduce their carbon footprint. According to the International Energy Agency, construction is responsible for 39% of annual greenhouse gasses globally in past years. The foundation of a sustainable winery starts, quite literally, at its foundation.
Chateau des Graviers at Clos Dufourg in Bordeaux is made with as many locally sourced materials as possible: straw, stones, sand, clay, even wood sourced from their barrel maker’s cast-offs. Then there’s Champagne Palmer in Bezannes, France which favored tile versus plastic and only partners with suppliers within 30 miles of the winery whenever possible to cut down on transportation emissions.
Another eco-friendly element to consider is how the winery is powered. Thankfully as solar power becomes more affordable, more and more wineries can afford the initial install price and reap the benefits to both their bottom line and the environment.
There’s also the concrete question. While a long-time popular construction material, concrete has a major negative impact on the environment. According to Nature journal, the production of concrete is responsible for at least 8% of global carbon emissions.
This becomes a quandary for construction and also for production. Often seen as a more eco-friendly alternative to oak barrels, concrete is a popular material for fermentation tanks. However, just because concrete doesn’t demand the sacrifice of a tree, that doesn’t make it eco-friendly. In addition to the process of creating concrete having a hefty carbon footprint, concrete and oak are both porous materials that require more water in order to be properly cleaned and sanitized between uses (Unlike stainless steel fermentation tanks or wine drums).
These are just a few considerations that are often overlooked when examining whether a bottle of wine is ‘eco-friendly’. So before you pick up that bottle, box or can of wine at your local corner store, consider how it got there. Not just the farming practices or packaging materials, but the winery itself. How was the winery built?