The SW Summary: Patagonian vineyards, glass recycling, pinot noir from Hokkaido and more

By Hanna Halmari

Miguel Torres’ “bold, albeit ominous” bet on climate change: A vineyard in Patagonia

For years now winemakers have been adapting to global warming, moving their vineyards to cooler climates whilst also capitalising on the new opportunities for grape growing in regions previously too cold. Miguel Torres of Spanish winery Miguel Torres SA has taken an even greater bet on climate change by planting vines in Los Conderes, a ranch in Patagonia, reports Lombrana for Bloomberg.

Recent years have seen Chilean winemakers  gradually move further south to lower temperatures, but as Lombrana highlights, “this Patagonia gambit is on a whole different scale.”  Miguel Torres owns land in Osorno in south-central Chile, but “Los Condores is almost another 500 miles further south of Osorno. Its average temperature [is] another 5 degrees Celsius colder in winter.”

With a 50-year horizon for grape growing, this long-term experiment emphasizes “just how high the stakes are for the industry and how resigned some are to the inexorable climb in global temperatures.” In order for a vineyard to be sustained in Patagonia, scientist Herve Quenol of France’s National Center for Scientific Research estimates that “average temperatures need to hover between 12 and 20 degrees Celsius (54 and 68 Fahrenheit) during the growing season.” Los Condores is still multiple degrees away from being a suitable climate for winegrowing. However, a forecast by the Universidad de Chile predicts that by the end of the experiment’s 50-year timeline in 2069, temperatures in Patagonia may increase by 1.6 degrees – just enough to make a vineyard viable. Whilst only time will tell if Torres’ project will be a success, the article quotes Quenol who seems fairly optimistic, stating that “the potential for small vineyards to succeed on the Chilean side [of Patagonia] is enormous.’’

Glass bottling: the “missing piece” in the equation of sustainable wine making?

Paul Dolan, CEO of Truett Hurst Winery, indeed believes it is. Biodynamic winery Truett Hurst has partnered with End of Waste Foundation (EOWF) to transition to a circular economy with sustainable glass use. According to EOWF’s press release, “glass can account for nearly 60 percent of the carbon footprint in wine production and distribution.” To echo Dolan, the manufacturing and transportation of wine bottles are evidently a “sore spot” in need of attention and action.

The press release highlights the commonly held misbelief that glass in recycling bins actually gets recycled – unfortunately this is not the case. Instead, the glass often “[ends] up being thrown into a landfill despite consumer efforts. Nearly six million tons of glass will not be recycled every year in the United States.”

To drive the creation of a “localized, efficient and circular economy,” “EOWF promotes a ‘Distributed Shared Responsibility’ (DSR) model” in which all actors across the manufacturing, distribution, retail and consumption chains play an equal role in offsetting costs and driving glass recycling. The DSR operates with a certificate-based system, the “Recycling Traceability System™”, in which businesses and consumers work together to achieve sustainable glass bottling systems. Read more about the model and the Truest Hurst/EOWF partnership here

Eight predicted trends for the global wine industry in 2020

Elin McCoy for Bloomberg reports on the eight ways we’ll see wine change this year. Recapping some of the major developments in the global wine industry in 2019, such as the increasing focus on the disastrous effects of climate change and growth in natural wine, McCoy proceeds to predict the following eight trends for 2020:

  1. Experimental grapes: Winemakers will increasingly experiment with old and new hybrid grapes to better cope with the hotter climate. 
  2. Popular piquette: McCoy predicts that the low-alcohol, cheap bubbly drink of piquette made from fermenting pomace, or the leftover stems, seeds and skins of grapes, will see increased demand in 2020.
  3. Learning from space: In November 2019 Space Cargo Limited sent twelve bottles of Bordeaux to the International Space Station for 12 months. This year we should expect to learn about how wine ages in space and the effects of radiation and microgravity.
  4. Higher demand for lower alcohol: According to Bibendum, “cutting back on how much you imbibe will be one of the biggest drinks trends of 2020,” reports McCoy. Health conscious consumers are expected to drive demand for no and low-alcohol alternatives.
  5. Instant access to wine will be easier: Leading the trend for instant wine and champagne purchases is Moët & Chandon. The company is planning on setting up 100 vending machines across the US selling their small bottles of brut or rosé. McCoy believes this year will see “other wine companies…jump on this bandwagon.”
  6. Growth of enotourism: Listing a number of new wine travel developments such as the World of Wine project in Porto, McCoy predicts wine tourism will continue to grow in 2020.
  7. New innovations in wine packaging: Given the high carbon footprint of traditional glass bottling, many companies are finding new innovative ways of packaging wine. Alternatives include canned wines, recycled plastics and zero-carbon corks.
  8. Experiential wine shopping: As AR and virtual reality technology develop, wine shops will be transformed “with navigation apps and electronic shelf beacons”, perhaps even “artificial intelligence-powered robot assistants,” predicts McCoy.

Conseil GCC 1855’s Ethical Charter of Sustainable Excellence

The Conseil GCC 1855 published its “Ethical Charter of sustainable excellence of the Bordeaux 1855 Grands Crus Classés (Médoc & Sauternes)”. The charter is based on the international standard ISO 26000, which, according to the ISO website, “helps clarify what social responsibility is, helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices relating to social responsibility, globally.” 

The charter aims to demonstrate the sustainability commitment of the Grands Crus Classés en 1855 to the:

  • “enhancement of an exceptional terroir, 
  • protection of a unique and universal heritage, and
  • consideration and respect for stakeholders”

Read the charter here.

Pinot noir from Hokkaido 

Etinne de Montille, President of Domaine de Montille winery from Bourgogne in France, was faced with a challenge common to many vineyards today: how to respond to the shorter grapevine growing cycle driven by global warming. This article in The Japan Times reports how in search of a cooler climate, De Montille expanded into Hokkaido, a region in Northern Japan. 

Most commonly known as a ski destination, Hokkaido also provides a suitable climate for pinot noir vineyards. According to Tomoyoshi Hirota, agrometeorology expert from the Hokkaido research center of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation (NARO), pinot noir grapes “grow best in areas where the average temperature from April to October is between 14 and 16 degrees Celsius,” the article reports. Whilst the region was previously only suitable for growing grape varieties suited to cooler climates, temperatures rises in the last few decades have changed the viticulture landscape. Wine producers have jumped at the new opportunities in Hokkaido, with the number of vineyards in the region having increased to 41 by December 2019, triple the amount since 2009. 

Although the region is now producing award-winning wines, the hotter climate has not come without its own challenges. The article quotes Toshihiko Sugiura, a leader at the Institute of Fruit Tree and Tea Science at NARO, who warns that “as climate change advances, and rainfall and typhoons increase, such risks emerge as the grapes would burst easily and become vulnerable to diseases. We should take countermeasures like selective breeding and combining new cultivation techniques.” Read more here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.