Sustainable winemaking is an increasingly important topic with concerns over climate change and generally being more Planet friendly on the minds of both Consumers and Winemakers.
The general aim of sustainability is to use less of the earth’s natural resources, replenish what we can and produce less polluting waste. The goal is to create the least amount of environmental damage for future generations.
Consumers are now more aware of the importance of consuming products that are produced sustainably, and winemakers are reacting to this.
However, more importantly winemakers need to embrace sustainability to safeguard their future. Vines are sensitive to the environment and any change in average temperature and rainfall can adversely impact them. As viticulturist Richard Smart said, wine is the “canary in the coal mine of agriculture.”
The winemaking process is long and complex from growing the grapes to transporting the finished wine and each step has its own environmental impact.
It’s estimated that cultivating one kilo of grapes for winemaking requires around 610 litres of water, which equates to approximately 109 litres of water in every glass of wine (WaterFootprint.org).
And, Research puts the average carbon footprint of a bottle of wine at 1.3 kg of CO2, 1 kg of CO2 is roughly equivalent to driving around 4.5 miles in the average UK petrol car.
What Can the Winemaking Industry Do to be more Sustainable?
Every vineyard is different and what works for one might not work for another but here are some general areas that winemakers / viniculturists can look at making changes to become more sustainable.
Along with solar panels some vineyards are using the dried vine prunings and skins as fuel in biomass boilers to produce their own electricity.
Packaging and Transport
The majority of wine is packaged in glass bottles which is heavy to transport. Add on the fact that a lot of wine travels a large distance to get to us, then it’s no wonder that transport makes up a large proportion of the wine’s carbon footprint.
There are alternatives with boxed and canned wines growing in popularity; as is shipping the wine in bulk and bottling closer to the end user.
Managing Water Consumption
On average it takes over 100 litres to produce 1 glass of wine. That obviously varies significantly from vineyard to vineyard, but it gives a good indication of why water management can be an important aspect of becoming more sustainable.
Improve biodiversity in the vineyards
Planting flowers, fruit trees and herbs can all help balance the ecosystem in the vineyard and increase the number of butterflies, beetles, bees, and birds which increases biodiversity.
Organic wine is made from organically grown grapes and is all about not using synthetic chemicals and pesticides when farming the grapes and is strictly controlled.
Obviously this isn’t possible for all winemakers but they should all be looking to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals they use.
There’s a lot of waste produced during the winemaking process with discarded skins and seeds being a large part of it. Rather than just disposing of this waste winemakers can look at ways of reusing it.
Using Sustainable Materials
The use of sustaianable materials in the construction of the winery. A great example of this is the use of hemp / lime bricks in the construction of the Chateaux Maris Wine Cellar.
How to buy sustainably made wine
As with many areas of sustainability there’s no overall certification or standard available for recognising sustainable winemaking.
However, there are a myriad of certifications available for sustainability in winemaking around the world that you can look out for on bottles that include:
- Sustainable Wines of Great Britain
- Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE)
- EMS Environmental Management System (ISO 14001 / ISO 14004)
- Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)
- SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice)
- Certified Green (The Lodi Rules)
- LIVE Certified (Low Input Viticulture and Enology)
- Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
- Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile
- Integrity & Sustainability Certified
- Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW)
- Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Protocol
- The Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario Certified Program (SWO)
- Sustainable Wines of South Africa
- Biodynamic Wine
- Robert Parker Green Emblem
Naked Wines Green Grape Logo - Our big green stamp of approval
If you’re looking for a simpler solution, then Naked Wines have devised their own way of recognising sustainably produced wines with their Green Grape logo.
We’ve always said great wine shouldn’t cost the Earth. So, to make it easier for you to drink more sustainably, we’re shining a spotlight on wines that go above and beyond to be kinder to our planet, with our new Green Grape logo. – Naked Wines
To achieve the Green Grape Logo the wines are assessed against the following criteria:
- The Vineyard – The winemaker is going the extra mile to grow grapes with the vineyard’s natural environment and biodiversity in mind.
- Winery – The team in the winery are managing energy, water, and waste efficiently and considerately.
- Transport – We’ve considered how far (and how) the wine has travelled to get to your glass.
- Packaging – The winemaker has chosen to package their wine in a lighter bottle or as a boxed wine, cutting down on carbon emissions.
- People – The winemaker is supporting their local community through charitable giving or by offering jobs and training.
This isn’t a one size fits all as each Winery has different challenges and approaches to sustainability but each one that is awarded the logo will have been assessed against the criteria above.
In addition, individual winemakers may have achieved one of the sustainability certifications for their particular region. For instance, in 2022 Simpsons Vineyard and Winery achieved the certification in Sustainable Wines of Great Britain.
Chateau Maris is a bio-dynamic and organic winery and was awarded the Robert Parker Green Emblem in 2022 an annual award that recognises wineries that are leaders and, in many cases, pioneers of sustainability. The Wine Spectator named it one of the 5 most sustainable wineries in the world as a result of its holistic approach to sustainability and innovative net- for zero energy wine cellar built using bricks made from organic hemp and lime, topped by a green roof with solar panels, it produces as much energy as it consumes.
Each Winemaker / Winery will have their own approach to sustainability, here’s what some of the winemakers have to say about sustainability:
I believe in sustainable farming. This means that whatever I do, I try and leave the soil in a better condition than when I found it. In general, I use organic and biodynamic practices and principles. – Brewer Raats
We are very focused on looking at the sustainability of our vineyard. We protect the environment as much as we can by using recycled paper for draft documents; programming activities at the winery that consume more electricity during off peak hours; using recycled cardboard; using natural closers; growing 25 hectares of organic olive oil; using lighter bottles for reducing transport costs and enticing flocks of sheep to our vineyards during winter and green pruning. – Oscar Quevedo
We have been committed to having a positive impact on the natural environment since we started making wine. Our winery has been certified organic since its founding, this of course meaning that we use no synthetic herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers in the production of our grapes and that there are strictly enforced rules about the products we can use in vinification. Our grapes are dry farmed and our winery uses 100% renewable electricity. We buy bottles, labels, and boxes from local suppliers and try to have a positive on our community by getting involved – Jennifer Buck
5 of my favourite sustainable wines
There are obviously hundreds of wonderful sustainable wines out there and although wine is very much a personal choice these are some of my favourite wines and winemakers from Naked Wines.
Benjamin Darnault Maris Organic Syrah 2019 by Benjamin Darnault – a deep dark spicy Syrah, full of ripe blackberries by one of my favourite winemakers.
Raats Angels Selection Malbec Cabernet Franc 2020 by Bruwer Raats – I love this blend, it’s another deep dark full-bodied wine full of juicy ripe black fruits, lifted by the acidity of the Cab Franc.
Simpsons of Barham Court Beora 2020 by Charles & Ruth Simpson – Gorgeous English sparkling wine.
Carmen Stevens Angels Selection Chenin Blanc 2022 by Carmen Stevens – delicious crisp, clean white wine with hints of apple and white fruits
Oscar’s Douro DOC 2020 by Oscar Quevedo – a great food wine that pairs well with duck and lamb