With more countries facing abnormal and extreme weather patterns, the word ‘sustainability’ is getting mentioned more often - especially in the wine world. But exactly what is sustainable wine?
As wine is an agricultural product, most people will focus on ‘land’, in which case sustainable wine refers to the minimal (or no) use of chemicals in vineyards to ensure soil is healthy and vine diseases are kept at bay. But this is only a very small part. Sustainable wine comprises of three pillars: environmental, social and economic.
Environmental sustainability is much more than healthy soil and chemical-free farming. It looks at a bigger picture of the ecosystem that encompasses water and waste management, energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, the use of pesticides, and biodiversity. Chemicals can be used in vineyards but only when necessary to avoid diseases.
Social sustainability aims to improve working conditions in agriculture, promote equality and prevent child labour. Social upliftment, education projects for the socially disadvantaged, skills development, and empowerment are all part of this pillar.
Economic sustainability is about balancing economic growth and generating profit with the impact on the environment and people. Ideally, long-term economic growth should be generated without negatively impacting social, environmental, and cultural aspects of the community.
For example, the use of lighter glass bottle is a cost reduction measure that also has a positive impact on environment by reducing carbon footprint.
Wine tourism has huge economic importance. Wineries can develop long term strategies by collaborating with other local businesses to deliver a memorable experiences to visitors, thus achieving social and economic sustainability at the same time.
A few wine countries are pioneers in sustainability. South African wineries can display the ‘Integrity & Sustainability’ seal on the bottle when they pass an audit. Consumers can trace the wine all the way from the vine to the bottle using the unique number on the seal. Australia, New Zealand and Chile have their own sustainability programmes to ensure responsible production of wine and sustainable use of natural resources.
Apart from the national level, there are other sustainability marks and certifications - from improving biodiversity to reducing energy, waste and carbon footprints that individual wineries can apply.
Image from Piecemeal Pantry
The idea of sustainable wine is to leave our planet in better shape and our society in fairer terms for future generations. Next time when you see a sustainable mark on the wine, appreciate the effort wineries have put in and the people that have contributed to producing the wine.