Sustainable wine is here to stay

A guest article by Ali Mason.

Some French winemakers claim to take care of the environment and have been highlighting their concern about climate change for many years. In 2009, 50 leading wine producers wrote to the then President Sarkozy about the threat of climate change on French wine. The impact global warming has had on Champagne production saw the harvest in 2018 become the fifth vintage to begin in August in the last 15 years. While this is a great boost for grape yields, the bumper harvests highlight the changing climate that winemakers are having to adapt to. Keen wine drinkers are becoming increasingly aware that the wine in their glass is changing and becoming familiar with hearing about sustainability, biodynamic, organic and natural wines. But is this just a trend for the moment or is sustainable wine the future of the French wine industry?

Champagne was the world’s first wine-growing region to carry out a carbon footprint assessment in 2003. Since then, the region has reduced the emissions produced by each bottle of Champagne by up to 20% during the last 15 years. Champagne wineries also claim to reuse 100% of the wastewater generated and recycle 90% of their industrial waste. Champagne aims to lower its overall carbon footprint by 75% by 2050 and be using no herbicides by 2025. Champagne producers are not the only winemakers conscious of their carbon footprint. An increasing number of winemakers have shown their commitment to minimising the negative impacts of their vineyards while also maximising their positive contributions by switching to a more sustainable approach.

The expectations of wine drinkers are evolving and this has seen consumers want better information about their wine. For example, the ingredients used as part of the wine production process, brand history and sustainability. This also reflects consumers increasing desire to take a more sustainable approach with a number of things they consume and purchase, such as gifts for example. Instead of just picking any bottle off the shelf to give to a fellow wine drinker, people are now giving more thought to whether the wine has been produced responsibly and sustainably. There is also an increasing number of wine-related eco-friendly gifts produced with the aim of reducing unnecessary waste. Gift vouchers, wine experiences such as vineyard tours and wine tasting events are growing in popularity. The market has even seen a wave of upcycled wine-related gifts, from wine bottles repurposed into drinking glasses, dishes, and vases to corks being used to corks being made into tote bags and furniture.

Sustainable winemaking goes beyond growing organic grapes. Wineries are becoming LEED and B Corps-certified, which takes into account the way the business treats the environment, its employees and community. Sustainable winemakers are focused on producing high-quality wine that uses processes motivated by the environment and social responsibility, along with economic viability. The whole process is sustainable from the way the grapes are grown and harvested to wine production, waste management and transportation. Sustainable wine producers focus on running their business efficiently while improving quality and long-term growth. Many French vineyards generate their own renewable energy and strive to minimise their carbon footprint.

Sales of French wines grown using organic grapes are expected to double between now and 2022. To be certified as an official organic grape grower takes up to 3 years before it is certified. To be organically certified, winemakers must demonstrate they do not use pesticides and chemical fertilisers. France continues to boast a global reputation for quality wines. It is the world’s leading wine producer with over 90,000 vine growing estates. It is also the world’s third-largest producer of organic wines. With nearly 9% of French vineyards already producing organic wines, organic farms have soared in numbers by almost five times in the last 15 years. The organic credentials of the wine have done nothing to hinder the quality of the wine, in fact, it is going from strength to strength. French organic wine is not just popular at home. In 2015, exports of French organic wine soared by 26%.

As wine drinkers become increasingly concerned with what is in their wine glass, French wine producers have for some time focused on producing wine that is not only of quality but also eco-friendly, sustainable and gives back to the community.

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