Five Ways to a Greener Wines and Spirits Industry
How green are our favourite bottles? It’s a question wine drinkers are asking more and more. This year, the wine and spirits industry event Vinexpo was ablaze with ways to make wine more sustainable. And Clos19’s parent company Moët Hennessy put the issue in the spotlight by inviting experts to discuss how winemakers can put the environment first. From sheep grazing in vineyards to weed-picking robots, read on to discover our 5 key themes:
1) Grazing among the grapes
You might be surprised to see sheep in a vineyard, but since global issues such as soil erosion and desertification can take generations to put right, the experts at Vinexpo were thinking out of the box. At Veuve Clicquot, soil conservation is already a priority. The champagne House uses only organic fertilizers, avoids herbicides altogether – and clearly keeps an open mind. Romain Le Guillou, Vineyard & Grape Supply Director explained: “Farmers can benefit from new technology while at the same time going back to ancestral practices such as eco-grazing.” Which means winemakers might soon start swapping pesticides for animals to keep their vineyards neat.
2) Conserving water
Climate change coupled with growing demand means water is an increasingly precious commodity worldwide. But as Vinexpo heard, water can be used more sparingly in vineyards, while still creating exceptional wines. Water can be preserved by drip irrigation (delivering supplies directly to a vine’s root system needed through a network of pipes), for example. Drip irrigation already used in 90% of vineyards at Terrazas de los Andes, in Argentina, where water is exceptionally scarce. To put it in perspective, more rain falls on Bordeaux in one year, than on the House’s Mendoza province in five years. And that means “every drop of water has to be transformed into a drop of life”, Estate Director Hervé Birnie-Scott told Vinexpo.
3) The tech takeover
Winemaking may be an age-old craft, but experts told Vinexpo how technology is changing it for the better. Thanks to weed-picking robots, MH’s entire wine division will be herbicide-free by the end of the year, with its vineyards in Cognac close behind. Hennessy’s vineyard workers have helped develop the robots, because, said Mathilde Boisseau, Head of Wine Operations, “the new generation wants to see change”. Science is an important ally in the battle with climate change too. “The seasons are no longer predictable, so we really rely on science,” explained Pauline Lhote, Winemaking Director at Chandon California. “When you have data, it is an additional tool to make objective decisions.”
4) The packaging revolution
From reusable cups to Christmas wrapping, we’re all trying to reduce the amount we throw away. And the good news is that the wine industry is looking to play its part. At Vinexpo, Ruinart champagne revealed its new, entirely recyclable plastic-free packaging. “It took over two years of research and development to develop Second Skin, our disruptive eco-friendly pack made of 100% moulded paper, which is nine times lighter than the current boxes,” said Violaine Basse, International Marketing & Communication Director. The change will reduce Ruinart’s carbon footprint by 60%. Now that’s something worth opening a bottle to celebrate.
5) We’re in this together
Where the environment is concerned, there’s nothing like a bit of collaboration for making a difference. On that, experts at Vinexpo agreed. As Moët Hennessy announced a new €20million research centre in Champagne devoted to sustainable winemaking, CEO Philippe Schaus, said: “We should advance toward sustainable viticulture together, sharing our findings with everyone concerned, including growers and competitors. We all want a planet which is healthier, cleaner." He’s right, of course. And whether it’s recycling bottles after a dinner party, or making more sustainable choices when we host, it’s up to all of us.