Sustainability in the wine industry
February 26, 2022
Being sustainable or reducing the environmental impact is now affecting all industries and sectors, and the wine industry is no exception, but what it really means, it is still open to debate.
In the last few months, I read plenty on wine brands and retailers coming up with the silliest suggestions just to ride the sustainable wine band wagon, including the “Green award” (discussed in one of my latest We love and respect the environment | Italian Abroad Wine Blog (italyabroad.com) posts). The latest idea I read of was from a wine merchant inviting wine drinkers to refill their bottles “to be environmentally friendly”, suggestion that not only has a very limited impact on the environment, glass bottles are widely and easily recycled, but do not consider the undesired effects on the wine of the refilling process unless done in an oxygen free bottling machine and this was the case, it could not be done in a wine shop. As per the bottles, the only option to make them more environmentally friendly is to reduce their weight, make them lighter, stop using heavy bottles but we know that some wine drinkers do love heavy bottles, it is wrongly associated with the wine’s quality.
Unfortunately, once the wine gets in contact with the oxygen, the oxidation process starts and the wine begins to deteriorate, it is on its way to become vinegar, so unless it is a cheap and “drink as soon as you get home” wine, refilling the bottle is just not feasible. Not only, bottle ageing is good for the wine, even a few weeks in a bottle make a difference.
If you remember, a few years ago or maybe more, we had a chain of shops offering consumers to refill their olive oil bottles, I can’t remember their name but within a few years they disappeared because both products are affected by the same issue: oxidation. But whilst for the olive oil the consequence is the olive oil losing all its healthy benefits and going flat; the deterioration is less evident, it requires an expert palate and many consumers erroneously already perceive the spiciness, punginess of the oil as a bad thing, for the wine the ultimate effect is very evident, it will make it undrinkable, vinegary, within a few days depending on the quality of the wine.
I personally believe that the only way, with the existing technology, for a winery to be sustainable is in the vineyards, in the practices used. Something can also be done in the winery as well, from using alternative source of energies to avoid wasting resources such as water, but the sustainability currently lies in the vineyards’ practices. Not only by limiting the use of chemicals but helping the soil to recover with other crops between vintages and keeping the yield low. Refilling the bottles will do more harm than good.
At Italyabroad.com we are proud to say that sustainability has always been one of our principles, pillars, and from the beginning, from 2003, when the subject wasn’t so important and relevant, we decided to work with small producers whether wineries or food artisan, it wasn’t and it is not a marketing choice. Our producers are small, family businesses and their door is always open for visitors.
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