Wine sustainability musings with Matt Harris, owner, Planet of the Grapes

By Tobias Webb

1) What’s Planet of the Grapes all about, aside from an amusing name?

Putting it simply – we are all about selling the best wines in the world – at amazing drink in prices with our flat £10 corkage add on to drink in.

We taste everything before we buy so we know how good they all are and pride ourselves on the level of service and knowledge of our staff.

Fine wine bars should be where you can also buy off the shelf, and we offer some of the most amazing wine tastings and dinners too.

2) How did you get into wine/the drinks industry?

I was useless at college. Goldsmiths in south east london in the 1990’s meant a lot of time spent in London clubs and not much hard work so I had to supplement my life with some part time work.

In my case Threshers on Brixton Road. The rest, as they say, is history! It helps that I love a drink too…

3) What’s your view on what sustainability actually means today for producers you visit? From the wine dinners you organise, it’s very clear there’s a lot of disagreement about the best methods, or perhaps just lots of ways of being more sustainable?

I think the disagreements tend to be where someone who believes in bio-dynamics can be dismissive of other people wines and vice versa – the best people are those that accept everyone has their own way of doing things.

Our attitude is that if the producers are looking after the vines, and the earth they grow in, then they will produce better grapes and we are all a winner in the long run.

Some go further than others, but it is good they are all trying.

One of the main issues is that each country has their own certification, and often several within each country.

We have some great producers who are not certified at all but employ sustainable agriculture.

4) Grape growers are all worried about climate change. Do you think technology/better yeasts/canopy management etc, can provide the answers?

I think all producers are looking in to ways of combatting this. In some cases I have known producers to grub up one grape for another in an acceptance that the climate change has affected their crop.

Canopy management, ways of trellising, night picking, etc, these are all ways they are dealing with the problem. But don’t forget that in some places, the higher temperatures/more sunshine is a serious plus.

5) What about your customers, do they regard sustainable wines as automatically inferior (i.e. natural/biodynamic as ‘hippy’) or are they flocking to Pontet Canet for it’s organic / biodynamic improvements?

I like to make a distinction between sustainable and natural/biodynamic. The grapes can come from sustainable agriculture without having to smell and taste of cider.

In fact, not all natural/biodynamic wines are off the wall in taste and style.

We are of the opinion that some of the producers forget that they are making wine to protect their methods of production.

They need to be reminded about what wine is supposed to taste like! There is room in the world for all of them.

Check out Planet of the Grapes’ new London venue at FOX Fine Wines,  118 London Wall.

About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at