The wine industry has been flowing for years. The more people like wine, the more people make wine, resulting in a massive global explosion in production.
But, the continued expansion in popularity has brought with it an ever increasing amount of eco-impacts at every stage of the wine lifecycle.
So, how do you know which wine is greener, and how do you choose?
What is “green” wine?
After considering the carbon footprint of transport, the materials used to house and package the wine and the resources used in the process, we get to the wine itself. Green wine is wine that is made from grapes which have been grown without damaging the environment. This usually includes mixed cropping techniques and organic practices that aim to use the land in a sustainable way.
Organic and biodynamic wines are usually made from grapes that are cultivated without relying on the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. This means that these methods have much lower impacts on the surrounding environment, workers and ecosystems, and emit lower amounts of green house gasses.
What’s the blight with sulphites?
Firstly, sulphite compounds do occur naturally can be found in a variety of foods, such as garlic, onions and grapes, and act to prevent the growth of microbial organisms and restricts the process of oxidation that makes wine go bad. They are therefore already present in small quantities during the fermentation phase of wine making.
Additional sulphites are generally added to most conventional (and some organic varieties of wine in small quantities), in order to further decrease microbial growth and increase the shelf-life of the bottle.
Organic labeling of wine and sulphite content
Organic wine certification in the US and the EU, require the grapes used to make “organic” labelled wine to be organically grown, and regulates against any additives at the fermentation phase. Organic wine should legally only contain up to 10 parts per million (ppm) of naturally occurring sulphites. Organic wine with a sulphite content (natural and added) between 10 and 100ppm has to be labelled “made with organic grapes”, while conventional wines are allowed up to 350ppm.
The quantities of sulphites found in wine are generally seen to be harmless to humans and the environment, but can cause allergic reactions on certain individuals. Organic varieties that do use added sulphites generally don’t exceed 40ppm.
So, how can I ensure I am buying the greenest wine?
Some of the larger transportation and packaging related issues are often harder to directly control as a lover and consumer of available wine; however, there are many things a buyer can do to increase their chances of drinking a more eco-friendly wine. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Buy locally – Wine made locally requires less transportation, opt for these before other more exotic varietals.
- Buy certified organic – Organic wine has a much lower impact on the land and on resources than conventional varieties.
- Buy “made with organic grape” varieties – These are still made with organic grapes so are also better for the land than non-organic types.
- Choose cork stoppers – Where possible, look for wines with natural corkstoppers instead of aluminium screw caps or plastic stoppers.
- Buy recycled and recyclable – Look for bottles made out of as much recycled content as possible. Whether this is recycled glass or recycled plastic.
- Recycle – Also make sure bottles are taken to a recycling centre when empty.
- Red or white? – Red wine usually contains the least amount of sulphites.
Top 5 Tips
- Wine made locally requires less transportation and therefore has a smaller carbon footprint. Opt for these before other, more exotic varietals.
- Organic wine has a much lower impact on the land and on resources than conventional varieties. Choose certified “organic” wine over non-organic.
- Buy wine labeled “made with organic grape”.
- Where possible, look for wines with natural cork stoppersinstead of aluminium screw caps or plastic stoppers.
- Look for bottles made out recycled and recyclable content, and be sure to recycle them when they are empty.