Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Environmental Impact of wine.

There have been a few press mumblings about a winery in New Zealand attaining CarboNZero certification recently. If I understand it correctly, they have neutralised their carbon emissions presumably by planting a corresponding acreage of trees to balance the Co2 produced by fermentation. But I would question whether that is then the end of their Carbon responsability. If they sell all their wines at the cellar door, then I would say yes, it is. But what if they dont, what if they sell half their production in New Zealand and half gets exported between the US, UK and Japan. The wine will go from their bond to a central depot - most likely by lorry - producing CO2. From there it will be stored until being sent off to individual merchants in New Zealand - again by lorry again producing CO2. Or it gets exported in which case it is loaded onto a refridgerated container (which I would guess is in some way responsable for some CO2 emissions after all it is powered, as well as some other greenhouse gases - CFC's, PFC's etc), where it will be consequently loaded onto a container ship to cross at least one ocean. Im not sure what the figures are but Im sure that container ships are fairly big producers of CO2, and other hydrocarbon pollutants. Once it arrives in its destination country again onto a lorry for transportation to a central hub or bonded warehouse before being dis-seminated to its eventual merchant. All of which amounts to a fairly substantial amount of CO2 produced, particularly if the wine has travelled half way round the world. Which raises a few interesting thoughts for the environmentally friendly drinker.

One interesting idea which is being trialled in Canada at the moment, involves packaging wines in Tetra-paks rather than glass bottles. The average case of wine weighs about 18kg. Of that nearly 8kg is in the glass bottles. The average case of tetra-paked wine weighs a little over 10kg. As most shipping and transportation is measured by the weight, this means that you can carry nearly a third more wine (the reality of shape means it is actually closer to 25% more). Now consider that nearly 70% of wine sold in the UK is sold through supermarkets, and think of the impact that moving the majority of that stock over to Tetra-pak would have. You could, in theory, remove one in four containers from the roads, which is bound to have a fairly big impact in reducing CO2 emissions. Obviously there would then need to be some provision for recycling the tetra-paks, but it is an interesting thought. After all in Australia a lot of wine is sold bag-in-box, and the trial of tetra-pak wine in Canada seems to have had a favourable reponse. It would require a major change in consumer attitudes, but then most aspects of environmental change are going to require some radical thoughts and some often painful changes. I doubt that I will ever see the day when a first growth claret comes in a tetra pak, but if Jacobs Creek or Hardy's stamp or Gallo was sold in tetra-pak then the consequences could have an enormous positive impact on reducing the damage caused by CO2 emissions. Wouldn't it feel good to know that the glass of wine that you are drinking was less damaging to the environment.

I should point out that Im not a environmental activist or "hippy" but it was something that I got to talking about last night with a couple of customer and the thought was nagging at me all last night. It raises a few interesting thoughts and gives me some issues to ponder for the future. The threat of environmental catastrophe seems to be very real and is certainly gaining media attention. Governments also appear to be making the right noises about dealing with the issues although their typical response is to create a new tax. Perhaps if they offered tax breaks to more environmental schemes they might get a more positive response, but now we are delving into politics, and I havent had anywhere near enough to drink to start putting the world to rights (for the record I havent had a drop of alcohol today!).


Anonymous said...

next time I am having a $40 filet mignon with a box of wine. ;)

- California

Anonymous said...

there is a huge market of wine drinkers who drink their wine within the first 3 hours of purchase. Tetra Pak wine boxes are not designed to be for the obscure bottle of wine you bought to go with your $40 filet mignon, it meant to be for the every day wine you bought to enjoy at a house party or for a camping trip.