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Listen to olive's drinks expert Hannah Guinness explore what winemakers are doing to make their practice and product more sustainable, plus what we can look out for when buying.


It’s often said that wine is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. Viticulturists worldwide have seen increasingly erratic weather patterns and warming temperatures over the past few decades, sometimes having catastrophic effects on yields and quality. Whole crops can be wiped out by unseasonal frosts, hail, floods or drought, and it is not uncommon for regions to harvest their grapes at least two months earlier than they did only 50 years ago.

This, together with greater awareness of the importance of soil health and biodiversity, has led to the wine industry tackling sustainability issues from all angles and with a growing sense of urgency.

These include reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy, improving soil health and protecting biodiversity, and some regions are planting new grape varieties that are more suited to the rising temperatures and/or are naturally resistant to pests and disease.

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For consumers, it’s hard to make informed choices – labelling can only give so much information and may be misleading. Some organic grapes are sprayed several times a season with permitted fungicides by tractors using fossil fuels, so their carbon emissions may be larger than non-organic grapes that are sprayed less often or not at all. Similarly, some growers work to organic principles but aren’t certified so can’t indicate this on their labels.

The elephant in the room is the use of glass bottles, the manufacture and transport of which account for around 68% of a wine’s carbon footprint. There is a reluctance among producers as well as drinkers to give up glass bottles, but things are slowly changing. Much entry-level wine is now shipped in bulk then bottled in the UK before sale, resulting in much lower CO2 emissions.

Other eco-friendly alternatives include bag-in-box and canned wine, along with exciting new innovations such as lightweight paper and plastic bottles. In the meantime, seek out wines from responsible producers sold by responsible retailers – hats off to The Wine Society, M&S and Waitrose, who have made impressive sustainability commitments, and plenty more are following suit.


Five sustainable wines to try

Drappier Premier Cru Champagne, £29.99, Majestic Wine

From Champagne’s only carbon-neutral winery, whose impeccable eco-credentials include ploughing its organic vineyards with horses. Zesty, toasty and totally delicious.

Drappier Premier Cru Champagne

Château Galoupet, £23, Clos 19

In a space-saving flat bottle made from recycled plastic salvaged from ocean shores. Lovely ripe Provençal rosé from a winery that’s home to one of only 12 queen bee fertilisation stations in the world. Try it with this baked feta with roasted grapes and rosemary.

Château Galoupet bottle

Bosman VIII Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, £9, Sainsbury’s

A South African winery in organic conversion which also does brilliant work in plant conservation, energy efficiency and education. This modern, breezy red blend would be great served slightly chilled with this ’nduja pepperonata stew.

Bosman VIII Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec

Cantina Goccia Celi, £12.99, Wine Embargo

A bottle made from 94% recycled paperboard and five times lighter than a glass bottle. An aromatic white blend from this Umbrian winery that practices regenerative agriculture. This tomato manchego tart would be a fine match.

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Cantina Goccia Celi

Coral de Peñascal Ethical Rosé 2020, £10, Able & Cole

A crowd-pleasing rosé full of peachy, redcurrant fruit with a grapefruit zest. Ultra-lightweight bottle from an organic, carbon-neutral winery that gives a proportion of profits to coral reef conservation.

Coral de Peñascal Ethical Rosé

Authors

Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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