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Patagonian vineyards, glass recycling, pinot noir from Hokkaido and more

Global media analysis by Hanna Halmari, content manager at SustainableWine.co.uk 

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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The debate on synthetic pesticides, new opportunities for East Anglian farmers and well-deserved recognition for Bilbao and Concho y Toro

Global media analysis by Hanna Halmari, content manager at SustainableWine.co.uk 

Is it necessary to go chem-free to be a sustainable wine producer?

This is the key question explored by Kathleen Willcox in this article for Wine Searcher. Comparing a conversation between two winemakers with differing approaches to sustainability to that of two parents tangled up in a vicious divorce, Willcox highlights just how divisie the topic of synthetic pesticides is in the industry.

In order to dig deeper into this contested issue, Wine Searcher conducted numerous interviews with winemakers and regional representatives to find out why it is (or isn’t) necessary to abandon synthetic pesticides as a foundation for sustainable wine production. 

Some wine producers they spoke to believe that chemical use cannot be instantly and completely abandoned. They perceive the transition to sustainable practices as a slow and gradual process in which chemicals may play the occasional necessary role.  Such an approach is held by Joao Barroso, manager of the WASP sustainability initiative in Alentejo, Portugal. He believes that environmental advancement must be aggressive but realistic. “We want to reduce the use of chemicals, but we know if we forbid it, there will be pushback. We are a young region, and taking things one step at a time,” he says.

This step-by-step approach can also be seen in California, the main wine-producing state in the US.  Dan Panella, co-owner of Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, California, emphasizes the need for a more holistic view of vineyard management and sustainability. “You have to look at the whole picture. I don’t think it’s necessarily more sustainable to go in with a tractor 17 times and spray an organic spray that can have a longer life in the soil, than to go in once with a chemical pesticide that’s sprayed on the ground between the vine rows. We have to look at the carbon footprint too,”  she says.

Whilst some winemakers have adopted this more lenient approach, others regard chemicals as poison and remain fiercely opposed to their use. Opponents of synthetic pesticides believe that true sustainability necessitates the complete abandonment of chemicals. Vanya Cullen, biodynamic winemaker at Cullen Wines, argues that  “any producer or region who calls itself sustainable and still uses glyphosate is being untruthful with consumers.” 

The lack of a clear cut definition of sustainability in regards to chemical use has resulted in widespread confusion among consumers intending to purchase sustainable wine. For example, a conscious consumer may purchase wine from Sonoma County on the basis that 99% of the vineyards in the viticulture area are certified sustainable. What may remain unknown to the consumer, however, is the fact that whilst some vineyards are chemical-free, others are still using synthetic pesticides. 

And yet neither approach is necessarily sustainable. As the article points out, the use of synthetic pesticides is linked to bee colony collapse, but many consumers remain unaware that the possible organic copper alternative results in soil contamination and toxicity. 

As Willcox concludes, “perhaps it’s time for members of the industry to decide – really decide – what sustainability means, and if chemicals have a place in that definition. Either way, that definition should be communicated more clearly to consumers, who equate “green” and “sustainable” with chemical-free.”

New Opportunities for East Anglian Farmers

It’s no secret that the wine map is evolving with climate change. As Sarah Chambers reports in this article in the East Anglia Daily Times, recent research indicates that the area for productive vine growth in the UK is comparable to the size of the Champagne region. Many East Anglian farmers now have a new opportunity to expand into grape growing. Agri-TechE, a business that supports innovative farmers, is connecting farmers with viticulturists to explore agri-tech solutions for regenerative agriculture. The article quotes Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics at Cambridge Consultants, who comments:

“ New technologies and techniques such as precision agriculture and robotics are required to meet [sustainability] needs. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think there is a reluctance from farmers to invest in new technology. The concern is more of the risk of it going wrong and the impact on the bottom line. The challenge is how to create a viable business model to support its adoption.”

Click here to find out about Agri-TechE’s event “Nothing to W(h)ine About – Uncorking the Opportunities for Innovation in Viticulture” taking place on February 11th, 2-6pm at Cambridge Consultants, Cambridge.

Ramón Bilbao and Concha y Toro’s successful sustainability initiatives

Wine producers Ramón Bilbao and Concha y Toro both deserve recognition for their sustainability achievements. As reported by Lisa Riley in Harpers, Spanish producer Bilbao is on track to exceed its 2020 sustainability targets to reduce impact by 20% in four areas: greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency, water management, and waste reduction. Since launching the sustainability program in 2016, audits of the first two years show the producer has already achieved a 23% reduction in greenhouse gases, 91% reduction in waste and 62% of energy efficiency objectives have been met. 

Responsible water management inside the winery poses the greatest challenges for Bilbao. Carmelo San Martin, Head of Sustainability at Zamora, Bilbaos’ parent company, shares how they are currently “working out how to measure and replace some of [the] winery practices and… are investing in more efficient tools.” To read more about Bilbao’s 2020 sustainability agenda click here.

Over in Chile, wine producer Concha y Toro has received recognition for its responsible forest management efforts. Edith Hancock for The Drinks Business reports how Concha y Toro has become the first winery to certify its forests under the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) Forest Management Certification. The producer’s Native Forest Conservation Program was launched in 2011, covering 3,272 hectares of native forests across nine vineyards. Today, the program covers 4,272 hectares and all nine vineyards “are credited by FSC for ‘low intensity’ management.” Read more about Concha y Toro’s sustainable forest management initiatives here.

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What has vine pruning got to do with sustainability? A lot, says Marco Simonit

Marco Simonit of Simonit&Sirch, on sustainable pruning

Sustainablewine.co.uk’s Agatha Pereira recently met up with Marco Simonit of Simonit&Sirch, a consulting and training company in vine pruning and training. Here’s a transcript of the conversation they had. Some of the responses we’ve included come from a translator, as responses were in a mix of English and Italian.

AP: Marco, tell us how did you start working with vines and what you do today?

MS: I come from a family of farmers. I have always been interested in everything involving natural plants and animals. In 1988, I started to work for a regional farmers organization in Collio region, which is Friuli, northeast of Italy, where I was born.

This was where I first met vines and my passion began. Before, in my family we don’t have a lot of vines, but a lot of cows and horses. The day I ‘met’ the vines, I thought a lot about the morphology of the vine, how they are trained, the domestication. I thought about the relationship between man and vine. This is strange, but this was my first question to myself when I started, back in 1988.

AP: How do you define sustainability for the wine industry today?

MS: It’s a complex question.

Sustainability means understanding complexity, understanding change. Learning the things of nature, and also taking away the obsession of controlling everything. It’s about being flexible as well as being sustainable. It’s about abandoning that idea of controlling everything.

Do you understand when you stand today with live plants, live animals? Man is changing because it’s life. I think sustainability is about understanding biodiversity, and staying with the changes. Don’t have a rigid approach, don’t have an approach that looks for control, but an approach which is dynamic, in line with the situation because conditions in the vineyard are changing day by day. We must respect biodiversity.

I like the holistic approach. If you observe and that you understand that day after day and you take your time, or observe, then you build your experience, this is the holistic approach. It is not a science but is it holistic? The observation day by day, year after year.

If you understand the vine is alive. Is it an individual? Is it like a man, like an animal? In the industrial approach, mechanical approach, all we have in the industrial wineries is strict control over the development of the vines.

AP: Which in your view are the most important vineyard techniques viticulturists can use to tackle or mitigate climate change effects in the coming years?

MS: Another complex question, because when you are in a particular ecosystem you are in that place, in that particular area in the world, with a lot of variations. You don’t have to try to change your ecosystem, but you have to understand and respect the ecosystem.

For example, in some places like, Australia or also California or other countries, water is an important issue. We need to think about to build strong vines and develop of the root stocks in the soil, respect the morphology and the biodiversity of the soils, but also build strong vines.

For adapting to climate change what is needed is to build strong root stocks, strong trunks, arms, allow ramification to take place. We need to build live roots, because inside the live root, you have nutrient storage. Vines in this case can have drought resistance.

The pruning is one of the mostly important issues for building strong vines. We don’t want to build dead wood and increase the risks of pathology and disease, we need to build live wood and roots.

If you don’t respect this, you increase the risk for the vines to lost their heritage and increase the risk of disease. You increase the risk of not having good production year after year. You don’t have the good identity of the grapes.

Because the grapes, when you have the vines that stay in this soil for many years, you have more possibilities than ever to identity the best grapes. This character of the grapes is then possible to find inside the vines afterwards. I think this is very important for reducing the risks and helping the vines resist climate change, because that change is so stressful.

Sudden changes, extreme change of temperature or fluctuation of climate, to manage against this, you need to build strong vines. After that it’s done pretty much with pruning. Good technical pruning is one of the big issues for build strong vines and the longevity of vines.

AP: How well do we understand vines today compared with the recent past and how much more is there to learn about how healthy vines function?

MS: Scientists today know so much more than in the past. We have a lot of information, but I think we need to put that in the hands of the winemakers, and the growers of the grapes.

It’s not enough to have a lot of scientific knowledge. Is it important? Sure. But I think we need to teach and coach more and spend and invest more time for the knowledge of the people who work in the fields. Everywhere in the world, in Africa, Australia, US, Europe, everywhere, we need to invest for teach and coach people who work in the fields.

AP: Do labels and certification matter to you? Do you think they make a difference?

MS: This is a really good question for pruning. In the US, for example, people ask us because there’s certification for organic and biodynamic, water friendly, fish friendly and many other areas. For pruning, no, but why not? If you don’t prune well, you don’t respect your vines. I think maybe the day is not so far away when the pruning certificate may be alongside the others.

Simonit&Sirch and Plumpton College have joined forces to create the first “Vine Pruning School by Simonit&Sirch, Respecting the Sap Flow” in UK, starting on Monday, January 13th 2020.

This is a unique opportunity to learn the basis of a method that is applied in some of the most important vineyards in the world, with a particular focus for UK viticultural requirements.

Participants will be supplied with their own copy of the award winning Simonit&Sirch Manual of Guyot Pruning, recently translated and published into English.

Limited places are available, to apply online on Plumpton College website, follow the link here.

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Bertrand Michat, export director, on sustainability at Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Here’s a podcast I recently recorded with Bertrand from Paul Jaboulet Aîné about the sustainability journey that the company has been on in recent years.

In the podcast we discussed:

  • Why Jaboulet has been heading towards organics, with some biodynamic practices, since 2007
  • Whether going organic is a useful defence against climate change
  • What the team at Jaboulet feel their consumers want to see from their brand on sustainability
  • The future of chemicals in the Rhone valley and elsewhere in France
  • How and why making contributions to ecosystem protection is important for wine brands like Jaboulet

Here’s the podcast on Soundcloud.

Syrah vines on the hill of Hermitage, post-harvest, October 2019
Grape bunch in the Jaboulet vineyard, October 2019
The hill of Hermitage
The hill of Hermitage, October 2019

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How should a New Zealand wine producer reduce environmental impact?

Natalie Christensen

Natalie Christensen, chief winemaker at Yealands, has some ideas. She recently spoke with Sustainable Wine’s Agatha Pereira about what Yealands has learned about putting sustainability ideas into action. An edited transcript of their conversation is below.

AP: How did you end up in the wine business, given you trained as a musician early in your career?

NC: Well I actually had a quarter life crisis. I was twenty-five, and eight months out of University. I had finished studying for a degree in music and a BA in psychology and education, followed by a Master of Science degree. I was working in HR but really not enjoying it. It was time for a change so I decided I would go travelling and see some of the world. My brother was living in Marlborough at the time and suggested that I come and work a harvest to make some money for travelling.

So I did; I worked for Saint Clair Family Estate and I loved it! I slept so well and loved going to work at the winery each day. During university I worked in a wine bar, which got me excited about wine, and was also a volunteer firefighter, so I was used to steel capped gumboots, pumps and hoses! I took a permanent job with Saint Clair and studied part-time, whilst working full-time in the winery, towards a wine making degree. That was back in 2006 and I haven’t looked back since!

AP: Tell us a little about Yealands and about the wines you make.

NC: We are a fairly young company. We opened on 08.08.08 and celebrated our ten year anniversary last year. We are the first winery in the world to be certified by Toitū Envirocare since inception and are currently the only winery in New Zealand to hold this certification. Yealands Estate is based in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough, and our main vineyard, known as the Seaview Vineyard, is the largest single vineyard in New Zealand. We are incredibly coastal which really influences the styles of wines that we make.

The Awatere Valley is a little bit cooler and a little bit drier than the Wairau Valley, the other main valley in Marlborough. It’s very, very windy in the Awatere so our berries tend to be quite small with thick skins and really intense fruit flavours. There’s also a really high mineral content in the soils so we get wonderful minerality or saltiness through the palate. We distribute globally and I always get a buzz when I spot Yealands on a wine list or in liquor retail when I’m travelling outside of New Zealand.

AP: What are your views on how sustainability thinking seems to be accelerating in the wine industry?

NC: It’s an incredibly hot topic. We’re in a great position because sustainability has been part of our company and our culture since day one and it honestly touches on everything that we do. In New Zealand we have Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand, an annual accreditation which most New Zealand wineries, including us, are part of.

At Yealands, we monitor our water and energy use. We work out how many litres of water it takes to make a litre of wine and we benchmark against other wineries in New Zealand and other wineries in the world. I’ve certainly noticed that sustainability has become very prominent, not just in New Zealand, but globally.

Everyone in the industry is starting to recognise that we need to be innovative and incredibly careful about what we are doing and ensure that everything we do takes into consideration the potential environmental impact.

Yealands Vineyard

AP: There seem to be ambitious plans afoot nationally but then some winemakers say tracking progress is not as rigourous as it should be.

NC: There’s definitely a movement to track progress more rigorously and make sure everyone’s got a solid focus. When it comes to sustainability we, as an industry, are learning all the time.

AP: Moving to Yealands specifically, you talk about innovation a lot on your website. What does that mean in practice?

NC: We have a great culture where we encourage everyone at Yealands to think innovatively. We have a staff Sustainability and Innovation program with a dedicated fund that’s open to anyone to submit an idea where they see a chance to innovate or make something more sustainable. The ideas are put forward to a committee who decide if an idea is feasible. The committee members act as mentors, working with the employee who came up with the idea to get the project up and running.

AP: How are you using technology to measure track and drive sustainability progress?

NC: We have quite rigorous tracking. We’ve set up a dashboard that we feed a lot of information into which allows us to automatically generate data for resource use. Our philosophy is, if we’re not measuring it, we can’t benchmark where we are or improve what we are doing.

AP: How has climate change affected winemaking in New Zealand so far? Many winemakers we talk to say weather and temperature volatility is the biggest impact they have so far. Would you agree? What can winemakers do at the vineyard or how are you coping at the vineyard?

NC: Over the last few years we have been seeing more extreme variations in our weather patterns. We’re getting tropical cyclones coming down from the islands more frequently. In 2017 we had an incredibly cold and wet harvest on the tail end of two cyclones. Then in 2018, we had a very warm year but also a decent amount of rain. Our most recent vintage was a drought growing season with high temperatures and barely a drop of rain post-Christmas.

We have dams on site to manage a drought situation, meaning we can still irrigate our vines for a further 42 days after water has been cut off. To manage really wet seasons we have installed some new presses in our winery with an accelerated press cycle so that we can process fruit really quickly if we need to.

As a team we know that being prepared is key to managing whatever the seasons decide to throw at us, because it’s certainly a bit less predictable than it used to be.

One other thing to note is that in really hot years alcohol levels start to creep up. I’m currently on a committee within New Zealand that conducts research into lower alcohol wines. Some of the really interesting research has been around the management of vines and vineyards, such as cropping the canopy more aggressively removing some of the ripening power from the vine. This results in a naturally lighter style wine.

Yealands Vineyard

AP: We saw you have an ISO carbon certification mentioned on your website. Every winemaker seems to have strong opinions about sustainability certification. What are yours?

NC: Sustainability is very much a focus for us and we have a couple of ISO standards that we are accredited to. One is ISO 14001, which ensures we have a robust environmental management system in place. It is designed to continually improve our environmental performance and we are in the process of extending this certification to cover our entire vineyard area, in addition to the winery.

We also have our Toitū carbonzero certification which requires the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions to be prepared in accordance with ISO 14064-1:2006.

Certification is certainly important because it gives validity to what we’re doing. It also gives confidence to our suppliers that we are at a certain level. They can recognise these certifications and feel confident that we’re not just saying we do these things, there’s an external auditor coming in to validate that we are truly doing what we say we are.

AP: Whose responsibility is, in the wine industry to reduce bottle weight, given the climate impacts of distribution? Whose responsibility do you think it is?

NC: I’d say it’s our responsibility. I think historically there’s been a feeling that big heavy bottles signify quality wine. As producers, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to indicate quality based on bottle weight, because it’s not adding genuine value.

Primarily producers need to be confident in the branding and the product and try to move away from wanting to dress the wine up in a big heavy bottle to give the impression of importance.

AP: How do use nature to help drive sustainability performance in your operations? Your website mentions burning vine prunings as biomass, developing wetlands, wildflowers, and using sheep and chicken.

NC: We have specially designed bale burners on site. As far as we know we are the only winery in the world to bale and burn our vine prunings to produce energy. At the end of each season we prune our vines and bale up the cuttings. These bales are then dried out and put into the specially designed burners producing energy to heat our water in the winery, which reduces our reliance on LPG.

We also have some Babydoll sheep, a smaller breed of sheep that were originally introduced to the vineyard with the intention of grazing them year-round. They are currently in a Pinot Noir block right next to the winery. When we don’t have growth on the vines we also graze large flocks of Merino sheep to keep the grass and weeds down and reduce carbon emissions from not having to mow so frequently.

There are also around a hundred chickens that roam freely around the property, and nine chicken coops to give them a comfortable place at night. They were introduced to provide a little extra help with controlling the grass grub population which can be very damaging to the vine roots and vine leaves when they reach maturity. Although the chickens don’t have a huge impact on the grass grub population (we’d need thousands to make a noticeable dent!), we love having them around and the eggs they lay are made available to the local community kitchens and charity groups, or to our staff.

Many of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed to make way for agriculture and urban development. To promote biodiversity we are continually planting native vegetation in areas unsuitable for vines and around our numerous wetlands. We have planted over 200,000 native shrubs and flaxes.

The vegetation encourages native wildlife to come into the property and helps maintain water quality in the waterways. Wildflowers and cover crops are also planted in between the vine rows, to attract beneficial insects that keep the pests away, increase diversity, increase soil carbon and reduce mowing passes and therefore our carbon footprint.

And finally there’s Butterfly Gully where we have planted over 200 swan plants to encourage native butterflies. The presence of butterflies can indicate a healthy ecosystem which we want to encourage at Seaview. We are New Zealand’s first Butterfly friendly organisation, certified by the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust.

AP: You’ve invested a lot in wind and solar. Tell us a little bit about that and the impact that it has had on your sustainability performance. Is it cost neutral yet?

NC: We have the largest solar panel array in New Zealand on our winery roof. The solar panels are capable of generating up to 411,000 kW hours (approximately 70 average NZ homes) and offset 82 tonnes of CO2 a year. Our region has some of the highest sunshine hours in NZ and we generate around 25% of our annual energy needs from a combination of the solar panels, wind turbines and vine pruning burners.

Click here to read more on Yealands’ commitment to sustainability.

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Celebrating leaders in sustainable winegrowing, the flat future of wine packaging and impacts of climate change

Global media analysis by Hanna Halmari, content manager at SustainableWine.co.uk

Celebrating the Eco-Conscious: The 2019 Drinks Business Green Awards

The Drinks Business held its annual Green Awards last week, celebrating the drinks companies leading the way in sustainable practices. In this recap of the awards, author Lucy Shaw emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to sustainability: 

“Today, if you’re going to be truly sustainable, you must consider all aspects of your operations – whether that’s energy use, waste treatment, recycling rates, transport type, packaging weight or how you benefit your surroundings, socially and environmentally.” Not only ethically motivated, drinks businesses must adopt more green practices to stay competitive given the sector’s “[increasing demand for] ethically-sourced products that do as little as possible to pollute their environs”. 

Symington Family Estates, a B Corp company as of this year, received the ‘Ethical Company of the Year’ Award. The company was recognised for its impressive achievements in environmental and social sustainability. Not only have the Symingtons seen through 16 projects in 2019, ranging from ambulance donations, copper reduction and carbon capture, but they have also successfully reduced carbon emissions per bottle by 23% since 2015.

The ‘Green Retailer of the Year’ Award went to Marks & Spencer, in recognition of their successful ‘Plan A’ sustainability project. With a goal of an 80% carbon emission reduction from 2007 to 2030, the retailer is on track to achieve this having reached a 75% reduction this year. The company has also made advances in packaging, with a target to  “make all its packaging ‘widely recycled’ by 2022”.

Accolade Wines won the ‘Logistics and Supply Chain Green Initiative of the Year’ Award due to its efforts in finding more sustainable methods for goods transportation. In early 2019, Accolade, Tesco and WEPA launched their combined delivery programme to maximise vehicle capacities and increase efficiencies. Since the programme’s launch, they achieved “an annual saving of 53 tonnes of CO2 and [a] cost saving of £80,000.”

The ‘Water Management in Wine’ Award went to RedHeads Wine, an Australian winery focused on “water collection, reducing waste water and water recycling.” Operating in Angaston, Australia – a dry environment with little rainfall – the company has managed to capture 2.7 million litres of water through innovative collection methods. 

Tenute Lunelli won the ‘Organic Initiative of the Year’ Award for its organic wineries in Trentodoc, Tuscany and Umbria. The company’s wine management programme ‘Animavitis’ “works in harmony with the cycles and rhythms of nature..perfectly combining organics, tradition and innovation.” 

The ‘Green Launch of the Year’ Award went to Avallen Spirits, a producer of Calvados who goes beyond the ‘do no harm’ approach. To help increase biodiversity, the company donates a share of profits to bee protection organisations. Alongside using eco-friendly packaging, Avallen also sources apples from over 300 local farmers and is working towards a closed-loop production system.

See all the Green Awards winners here.

Sustainable Wine Packaging: The Future is Flat

Euronews and Forbes both recently published articles about Garçon Wines, the London-based pioneer of sustainable wine packaging. Alarmed by the high carbon footprint of glass bottles, the company designed an innovative packaging alternative. Garçon Wines’ shatter-proof flat bottle is made out of PET plastic, or “100% post-consumer recycled plastic”, which has no impact on the contents inside. The flat bottle holds the standard 750ml, but is 87% lighter than a standard glass bottle and is thin enough to fit through a letterbox.

Not only are the flat bottles made out of entirely recycled materials and recyclable, but they also save 500g of CO2 per bottle. The reduced bottle weight and flat design enables compact stacking which reduces transportation CO2 emissions and costs compared to standard glass bottles. Santiago Navarro, co-founder of Garçon Wines, tells Forbes that “based on a consignment of 50,000 bottles, the number of trucks used to transport the same volume of wine would fall from five to two.”

“Most wine companies don’t think about the packaging, they just take what has been around and inherit it. It’s an antiquated model,” Navarro tells Euronews. However, as climate change becomes a more obvious threat to the wine industry companies are starting to take action. Garçon Wines currently operates in the UK and the Netherlands and is expanding to the French, Spanish, Scandinavian and North American markets, reports Forbes.

As the author of the Forbes article Scott concludes, “when it comes to wine, in future the world may be flat – cheers!” 

Climate Change as One of the Biggest Long-Term Risks for the Wine Industry

ProWein’s recent report on the wine industry has revealed that, “after health policy challenges and obstacles to global trade,” climate change is one of the most prevalent issues for the wine industry. Rupert Millar covers the report for The Drinks Business in this article here, highlighting how the effects of climate change can be felt across the entire wine industry supply chain. Whilst the greatest impacts of climate change are currently experienced by vineyards through volatile yields, these create “a volatile pricing atmosphere, which is a key challenge for bulk wine shippers and bottlers.”

73% of ProWein’s survey respondents across the wine industry said they expect climate change to impact their business and 86% of respondents believe that “the wine industry must become more sustainable; economically, environmentally and socially.” 

“Nine out of [ten] producers surveyed said they had already felt some form of effect over the last five years”, and one in three producers expect that “new oenological practices…new grape varieties…reverting to indigenous varieties…or [the introduction of] new hybrids” will be necessary by 2030.

However, as Millar expresses, “the report was not entirely a litany of doom and disaster.” He highlights how shared challenges often encourage stronger and closer collaboration among businesses and how many industry players are already taking action through more sustainable business practices. 

This more positive outlook is shared by Barbara Barrielle, who, writing for Wine Industry Advisor,  states that the wine industry is “well equipped to meet climate change challenges.” Barrielle’s article quotes Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica, who is acutely aware of the issues in the wine industry posed by climate change. He believes, however, that through innovation, adaptation and collaboration the wine industry will be able to combat the effects of climate change. 

“The people in this industry have strategic vision. They are special in the wine business and, by the nature of the business, have a long-range mentality. The nature of our industry means we are unique and there is a natural collaboration of people in the wine industry…[We] share and steal practices, collaborate with each other and will help to spread good practices…With these factors, we are going to be just fine,” Trezise says. Read more here.

2020 International Sustainable Winegrowing Competition Winner: Crittenden Estate

Earlier this month Crittenden Estate was announced as the 2020 International Sustainable Winegrowing Competition winner. Run by The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) alongside FIVS, “a Paris-based international federation of sustainability-minded wine organisations,” the competition aims to recognise wine producers leading the way in sustainable practices in the industry, explains Ian Horswill in his article for CEO Magazine

Based in Victoria, Australia,Crittenden Estate received the award due to its numerous environmental, economic and social sustainability programs.  The family-owned winery submitted its 2017 Cri de Coeur Pinot Noir to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability in the wine industry. Horswill elaborates on the winning winery’s sustainable growing practices, discussing how the vineyard has:

“Abandoned the use of chemicals in the vineyard for an innovative program of inter-row cover crops and soil cultivation; [has] a twelve-month composting program to maintain soil health; [has introduced] bees to the property to fertilise desirable fruit trees; [has reduced] energy costs by sixty percent…with the installation of solar panels; and [reclaims] and [reuses] water through [their]water treatment plant.”

Read more on Crittenden Estate’s sustainability initiatives here

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Key messages from the Future of Wine conference, Loire commits to organic, Sonoma goes hi-tech, and climate change at ProWein

Global media analysis by Hanna Halmari, content manager at SustainableWine.co.uk

Wine producers in Loire Valley “will not stop doing things the organic way”

So says Benoit Amirault, winemaker at Domaine Yannick Amirault in Bourgeuil, quoted by Edith Hancock in this article in The Drinks Business. Benoit tells Hancock that climate change is the region’s biggest challenge, with some estates having “lost as much as 60% of their crops this year.” Hancock points out that despite the increased difficulty of practicing sustainable viticulture in Loire compared to other regions in France, “the Loire’s small producers are championing sustainability.” 

The Loire wine region is highly diverse. Total area production is composed of white, rose, red and sparkling wines at 41%, 24%, 21% and 14% respectively, as reported by Hancock. Certified organic wineries cover over a fourth of the region and this figure is expected to grow over the coming years. The article quotes Sylvain Naulin, director of the industry body Interloire, who says “it’s a lot of noise from a small proportion.” Naulin also “predicts the global [organic] trend will become even more important in the region as more producers swap from applying pesticides to copper in their vineyards.”

However, Hancock notes how the switch to copper is not necessarily sufficient. Copper, a toxic metal, poses its own environmental issues of water and soil contamination. The article states how “many producers in other parts of France, like Champagne, believe eliminating the use of copper as a fungicide in vineyards will be the biggest issue for the wine business over the next 10 years.”

Organic wineries are therefore experimenting with alternative methods to protect their vines without using copper. The article shares the fantastic example of Château Pierre-Bise’s innovative power-steamer. Built from duct tape and lawn mower parts, the estate uses the steamer to “kill harmful microbes that could infect the grapes with mildew, but leaves the fruit itself unscathed.” Whilst currently still a prototype, Claude Papin, owner of Château Pierre-Bise, tells Hancock he expects the machine to be in daily by 2021.

Climate change takes center stage as key theme at upcoming ProWein 2020

Lisa Riley for Harpers reports how ProWein, the world’s largest industry meeting for wine professionals, will explore key sustainability issues in next year’s conference. Taking place across 15-17 March 2020, the three day trade fair will cover sustainability topics including “how winegrowers are reacting to changing weather conditions and coping with higher temperatures and longer dry spells, and if vine portfolios are changing in the wine growing regions affected by climate change.” 

Quoting ProWein director, Bastian Mingers: “Climate change is playing an increasingly disruptive role in the wine industry, and Prowein 2020 is paying attention.” Read more here.

Sonoma County Winegrowers use augmented reality to share sustainability message

“There is an over-saturation of ‘sustainable’ or ‘environmentally conscious’ products that are flooding marketing channels with these terms being overused, sometimes inappropriately, and many times in a judgemental manner,” reports Cathrine Todd in this article for Forbes. As a result consumers face an increasingly difficult time identifying truly sustainable products. So how can Sonoma County Winegrowers cut through the noise and share its sustainability message?  With 89% of its vineyards third-party certified sustainable, the organisation is very close to achieving its ambitious goal “to become a 100% sustainable wine region” set in 2014. Todd reports on how Sonoma has adopted an innovative approach in its use of AR, or augmented reality, to reach consumers in an engaging and powerful way.

By downloading the Sonoma County Winegrowers app, the user simply needs to scan the wine label of a participating Sonoma wine producer and the captivating AR experience comes to life (see an exemplary video here). As the article explains, the AR experience delivers two messages: first is the “message of the importance of sustainability and Sonoma’s grand goal of 100% sustainability that is within arm’s reach…the second part is a video with members of the winery…talking about what it means to [them] to be sustainable.”

Whilst not many producers are yet willing to experiment with AR, Todd quotes Anisya Fritz of Lynmar Estates, who talks about the “importance of her community standing out with this technology” and “telling the story of wine”.  With Sonoma’s long-standing commitment to sustainability and history of protecting nature, AR provides a fun and unique opportunity to “[share] stories of real people and a real community making significant change.” 

The Future of Wine Conference

Vineyard Magazine published a comprehensive summary of our inaugural “The Future of Wine” conference which took place on November 4th at the Conduit Club, London. Bringing together over 120 winemakers, distributors and other industry executives, the sessions drove honest and open debates on a vast array of viticulture sustainability issues. It was “ultimately concluded that [sustainability] is too much of an all-encompassing subject to be fully unpacked” and that it clearly “touches every inch of viticulture, winemaking and subsequent marketing and retail.”

Key sustainability viticulture topics discussed throughout the day included the use of pesticides, soil health, water management and vine health. As reported by Vineyard Magazine, an overarching consensus centered around  “the overall importance of not trying to fight nature, but simply finding better ways of dealing with it.” This was echoed by Jane Awty, owner of Oately Vineyard in Somerset, who shared how she and her husband Ian had realised “that is is much easier to work with nature.” She provided an example of how “after planting [they] were faced with a lot of Chamomile and didn’t quite know what to do. Instead of using herbicide, [they] bought a ride on lawn mower. Now [they] allow alternate rows to come to seed and with this [they] attract over 50 species of insects, which include beneficial predators.”

Not only is there an environmental impetus for producers to follow sustainable viticultural practices, but economic and social too. Vineyard draws attention to the “economic and social responsibility to ensure that the crop makes it to the winery,” as highlighted at the conference by one estate owner. Indeed sustainability is all about balance, as accurately summarised in the feature:

 “Sustainability is about having a balance between doing what’s right – mechanical weeding, instead of herbicides; pheromones instead of insecticides – without compromising the end product – not spraying, losing all fruit to disease and having no product for sale. With this in mind, producers need to find better ways to facilitate open dialogue with consumers to explain what sustainability is in simple terms and why it is perfectly acceptable to use non-organic products and methods in certain situations.”

This need for an open dialogue with consumers also extends to issues regarding sustainable packaging, the subject of the much-awaited closing debate of the conference. Vineyard Magazine quotes one conference attendee who succinctly captured the issues around the on-going narrative on plastics: “sometimes plastic is the right decision, but companies don’t know how to say it, and consumers don’t want to hear it.” To read more about alternative packaging options and other key topics discussed, see the online issue here.

The Future of Wine 2019 conference, November 4th, London

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Climate adaptation, climate impacts, WineParis on sustainability, and Portugal ‘leads’

The hill of Hermitage
The hill of Hermitage

Hanna Halmari rounds up some of the latest media analysis related to sustainable wine around the world.

Adaptation in the face of climate change: Five key trends in the wine industry

“Viticulture by its nature is complicated. As the world’s climates are transformed, it is only becoming more so.” So states Eric Asimov, author of this New York Times article, in which he outlines the following five key trends in the wine industry related to climate change:

Hotter temperatures are re-shaping the borders of the global wine map: Regions that were previously too cold for winegrowing are now suitable due to warmer temperatures. “ In pursuit of the best sites, wine producers are moving north in the Northern Hemisphere, and south in the Southern.”

Not only is the wine map expanding horizontally, but vertically too: The warming climate is also driving producers to plant vineyards at higher altitudes previously “considered inhospitable to growing wine grapes.”

Maximum sunlight is no longer a key requirement for vineyards:  Wine growers are rethinking the traditional strategy of planting vineyards in such a way that they receive the most sun and warmth. With warmer temperatures, “the problem for wine producers is no longer how to ripen grapes fully but how to prevent overripening.”

The changing climate requires a change in grapes: For many producers new vineyards in cooler climates are not an option, meaning they must change to more suitable grape varieties. It may seem impossible to imagine Bordeaux without cabernet sauvignon and merlot, or Champagne without pinot noir and chardonnay, but the prospect of a much warmer future may require even the most famous wine regions to rethink their methods.”

The weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable: Climate change has led to the weather becoming less predictable than ever. The article quotes Gaia Gaja of the Gaja Winery: “It hails when it never used to hail, rains in the summer when it used to be dry, is dry in the winter when it used to rain.” 

Increased temperatures, higher altitudes

Familia Torres, an international wine company based in Catalonia, is leading the way in combating global warming in the wine industry, writes Eric Asimov for The New York Times. Having reduced its carbon footprint by 28% since 2008, the company hopes to hit its target of 80% by 2045. Alongside finding ways to lower carbon emissions, Torres is experimenting with potential solutions to adapt to the challenging and changing conditions wine producers are faced with. 

Asimov draws special attention to one specific effort made by Torres to adapt to climate change – planting vineyards at higher altitudes. For example, it has planted a vineyard 2,500 feet (750m) high in Priorat, an altitude that would have been impossible for for growing wine grapes 25 years ago. 

Jordi Foraster, winemaker at the Torres Priorat winery, tells Asimov, “People in Porrera thought we were crazy.” However, increasing temperatures are driving the need for such innovative solutions. “It’s a bet for the next generations to keep making wines with the freshness that we want,” she says. Read more here

“Soil is our largest potential tool in our fight against climate change”

So says Ms. Casteel, a farmer and wine producer in McMinnville, Oregon, in this New York Times article by Eric Asimov. A strong advocate for regenerative agriculture, or “a way of farming that emphasizes rebuilding, restoring and supporting the organic matter that composes healthy soils,” Ms. Casteel believes it has the capability to undo the years of damage caused by industrial farming.

“The care of the landscape was informed exclusively by a familiarity with the natural world. Learning how to do that was first formed by a relationship with the natural world, and we have moved completely away from that,”  she tells The New York Times.

Asimov writes how in Ms. Casteel’s view, the simplification of modern agriculture and its dependency on human intervention for compensation has caused soil to become “progressively less organic, less able to sustain life and play its role in the natural order.” Her goal is to restore the natural balance in agriculture through regenerative farming practices.

Although only a small  sub-sector within agriculture, Ms. Casteel believes that viticulture has the potential to give prominence to issues of agriculture and climate change. Ultimately, she hopes it will “lead to the next agricultural paradigm.”

WineParis to launch eco-friendly initiative “Wonderful” in 2020 Expo

Taking place from 10-12 February, 2020, the second edition of WineParis, an international business wine event, will see the launch of a new initiative called ‘Wonderful’, The Drinks Business reports. 

This eco-friendly initiative aims “to improve visibility for winegrowers, estates, co-operatives and negociants that have committed to at least one organic or eco-friendly scheme; clarify existing certifications and endorsements; highlight market and consumer developments; and signpost future trends and solutions,” states WineParis’s organisers.

Key certifications and green initiatives to be highlighted in the show include “AB, Biodyvin, Terra Vitis, Système de Management Environnemental du vin de Bordeaux, Viticulture durable en Champagne, Bee Friendly, France’s High Environmental Value certification, Vignerons en développement durable, B Corporations and more” writes The Drinks Business. 

“Wines are becoming fuller-bodied, more alcoholic and riper in flavor”

So points out Gaia Gaja of the Gaja Winery in Bloomberg’s article on the effects of climate change on the taste of wines. Author Elin McCoy reports that: “soaring temperatures from global warming lower acidity in grapes and increase sugar, which yeast turns into higher alcohol during fermentation.” In the Rhône Valley, for instance, increased temperatures have already pushed alcohol levels close to the strength of sherry at 16%.

As grapes ripen faster in a warmer climate, the growing cycle has shortened. Kimberly Nicholas, senior lecturer at Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Sweden, highlights how a shortened growing cycle may cause sugar and flavor ripening to fall out of sync. “Finding the sweet spot, when sugar, acid, color, tannin, and flavor in the grapes are in perfect harmony, will be more and more difficult,” she tells Bloomberg.

However, some vineyards are benefitting from warmer temperatures. The article notes how  regions with a cooler climate can now produce better tasting wines. Citing the example of Germany’s “once anemic pinot noirs,” McCoy highlights how “most of the country’s regions used to be too cold to ripen these finicky grapes every year; now the wines are increasingly fleshy, seductive, and delicious.”

To be sure, the world’s wine map is changing in response to global warming. With producers moving into new regions and terroirs, “by 2050, Idaho, Norway, and Sweden may be the source of some of the world’s great wines,” writes McCoy.

Producers are also experimenting with growing new grapes better adapted to a hotter climate. Dan Petroski, winemaker at Larkmead in Calistoga, “has planted a 3-acre parcel with zinfandel, tempranillo, and more varieties to blend with cabernet in the future, to add color and density to keep the valley’s plush, sun-kissed style.” As he duly tells Bloomberg, “with wine you better think 20 years ahead.”

Portugal: leading the way in wine sustainability

Writing for Fortune, Shana Clarke discusses the impressive strides Portugal has made to become a leader in the sustainable wine industry. Describing the emergence of the Porto Protocol, Clarke reports:

“From (the) initial (2018 Climate Change Leadership Summit) conference, and the subsequent event in 2019 that featured Al Gore as a headline speaker, the Porto Protocol was born. At its core, the Protocol is a pact that a winery makes with itself to improve its methodology and commit to making changes in its practices in order to mitigate climate change. On a broader scale, it connects the wine industry through an online think tank, where information and case studies can be shared on a global scale.”

The article also introduces two Portugeuse companies with high-reaching plans to tackle climate change. First is Symington Family Estates, a Porto-based wine company. As the first winery in Portugal to become a Certified B Corporation, the company believes in a holistic approach to sustainability: “It’s not just about the vineyard or your practices around viticulture,” Rob Symington, associate director of communications and sustainability, tells Clarke. “It’s everything from people, suppliers, environment, and governance…B Corp is a way of communicating a lot just through that stamp of approval.”

Second is Amorim, a global cork producer. Clarke notes how the company has “earned certification from the Forest Stewardship Council in 2005, which enables full traceability of the cork source and ensures the material came from a sustainably managed forest. Within the factory, no element of cork goes to waste. Material that is unfit for bottle stoppers—or any of the other products produced by Amorim—gets ground down into dust, which is then converted to an energy source, fueling 70% of the factory’s energy needs.” Read the full article here.

On Monday Sustainable Wine hosts our first event, a sold out conference in London on The Future of Wine. We’ll report back on the website as to what was said (Chatham House rule allowing) as soon as we can!

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Cornas: Making sustainable wine with Mattieu Barret of Domaine Du Coulet

Here’s a recent interview with Cornas biodynamic pioneer winemaker Mattieu Barret of Domaine Du Coulet. Mathieu makes a variety of wines, all of which are excellent.

In the interview we talked about why he’s been thinking – and acting – on sustainability for two decades. We discuss what it looks like in Cornas (and nearby areas where he makes wine, like St Joseph) and the difference sustainability makes to wines, and vineyard health. Listen here.

We also talked about:

Why Mathieu has moved away from using any oak at all now in his wines.

How the weather has changed in Cornas in the last twenty years. 

How the harvest has come earlier than it used to, up to two weeks.

How his wine education more than twenty years ago, convinced him at an early age to focus on biologic and biodynamic wine making from the very start.

That terroir driven wines have to be chemical free to reflect the land itself.

Biodynamic being more a philosophy than a set of rules for him. “We are not a slave of the calendar” he says.

Why intuition and experience is more effective than following a checklist in the vineyard and the winery (a common theme!). 

Chemical use in viticulture more generally: It’s not a good marriage! It may work for low cost wine, but it’s a “mistake of history” to be using chemicals in AOC’s like Cornas.

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The challenges of being organic in Condrieu

A podcast interview with Paul Amsellem, a director of one of the finest Condrieu producers in the Rhone valley, Georges Vernay. In the interview we have a chat about the wines they make, the region, and how tough it is to be organic when working on such steep slopes, what holds others back, and the future of chemicals in wine. 

So what are the challenges of going organic? The steep hillsides of the Rhone valley mean spraying is much easier than hand weeding. As a result of the topography, labour costs are much higher than they would be if the land was flat, says Amsellem. This means many fewer producers than you might think, given the rising interest in chemical reduction, are organic in Condrieu.

However, predicts Amsellem, herbicide sprays have little future ahead of them in France. He expects such chemical treatments to be banned in the near future. Check out our recent news and analysis round-up for more on this.

You can also listen to the podcast on Soundcloud, here.

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