How green is your wine?
Our wine columnist, Victoria Moore, finds out about the grape growers that bring people and nature together.
Christina Rasmussen is a yoga-practising, nature-loving millennial whose Instagram feed is filled with pictures of birds – and wine tanks and vineyards. In 2020, she launched a new venture, Littlewine. Part digital magazine and slick information resource, part wine shop, Littlewine’s focus is on low-intervention, organic and biodynamic wine.
For Christina, promoting growers who look after the planet is as much of a creed as drinking good wine. Not all wine businesses have such purity of purpose, but more and more are putting green credentials high on the agenda. To be fair, wine producers were early adopters; as gardeners of vines, they are acutely aware of climate change and man’s impact on the biosphere. In South Africa and New Zealand, they embarked on nationwide sustainability certification programmes two decades ago, and have a participation rate close to 100 per cent. But there has been a notable step change in recent years, with global brands as well as small family producers increasingly keen to hone the improvements made.
Lindeman’s – the Australian super-brand found on every supermarket shelf – recently announced that it had achieved its goal to be certified carbon neutral in Europe by the end of 2020, after moving its wines into lightweight bottles, deploying solar power and investing in carbon credits. If you love sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, then you’ll probably have encountered Yealands wine in a shop or pub. Yealands unusually opened its doors in 2008 certified carbon-neutral from the off, but recently redesigned its packaging to forge a visual link with its environmental work. Meanwhile, not a week goes by when I don’t receive an email informing me that a wine producer has just been certified organic.
The push to improve is coming at every level – from grand properties in Bordeaux, big Champagne houses, international everyday brands and small family estates. So much work is being done on every stage in the winemaking and selling process – it’s almost competitive.
Writing in a new book, On Bordeaux, the negociant Mathieu Chadronnier says that sustainability work in the world’s most famous wine region, ‘even paves the way for vineyards in Bordeaux to have a negative carbon footprint.’ Wine producers are installing solar panels, using animals to reduce the amount of machine work in the vineyard, and re-wilding parts of their estates to improve biodiversity. Meanwhile, outfits like The BIB Wine Company are refining every element of their bag-in-box packaging to make it lighter and to use more recycled materials in their manufacture.
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We can do our bit, too, by recycling, not jumping in the car to go out just to buy a single bottle and by supporting those who are putting the most work in to be sustainable. It’s not always easy to see who’s really doing it and who’s more on the green-washing side of things, but one tip is to look for the recommendations in a new digital magazine called Cherry, whose focus is all on making kind choices.
This month I'm drinking...
Davida 2019 Navarra, Spain (£8, Co-op)
Organic, biodynamic and with no added sulphur, this is a bright yet soft red made from the garnacha grape – think strawberry coulis.
Bruce Jack Sauvignon Blanc 2020 South Africa (£7, Tesco)
A vivid Cape sauvignon blanc that tastes of gooseberries. Try it with one-pan roast salmon with leeks, onions & parsley dressing.
Cidade Branca Alentejo Red 2019 Portugal (£8, Morrisons)
A rich and easy-drinking red, based on the touriga national grape. Perfect with beef & Boston baked beans.
Read more articles by Victoria Moore
Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).
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