The SW Summary: On inclusivity, soil biomes, communicating sustainability and more

By Hanna Halmari
Moving towards an inclusive wine industry

Writing for Wine Enthusiast, Amber Lucas takes a look at the social side of sustainability in the wine industry. The recent BLM Movement and Court of Master Sommeliers sexual harassment scandal shone a light on the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the wine industry. Lucas discusses some of the ongoing initiatives to increase diversity in the industry, highlighting the leading role of Millennial and Generation Z wine consumers in driving the change.

Future-proofing for climate change in the Mediterranean  

Writing for Horizon, the EU Research & Innovation magazine, Alex Whiting draws attention to the severe impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean Basin. Rapidly increasing temperatures and volatile weather patterns create an uncertain environment for wine makers in the region. Whiting discusses the potential impacts and risks of VISCA, a project focused on “developing forecasts and pruning techniques to help vineyards adapt to climate change.”

The significance of soil

Despite previously having been considered beneficial and necessary, the detrimental impacts of tillage are now widely understood. The importance of maintaining a healthy soil biome, or the “microorganisms living within [layers of] the soil” is the focal point of Michelle Williams’s recent article in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. She reviews the threats to soil health posed by climate change and pesticide use, and the need for wine producers to “create balance in and around the vineyard.”

Organic, but at what price?

In his article for Wine-Searcher, James Lawrence considers the realities of going organic in France’s vineyards. Describing the “hype over France’s viticultural revolution” as “ludicrously blown out of all proportion,” he emphasises the need for lower economic barriers and increased “high-profile conversion stories” to drive the widespread shift to organic viticulture. 

According to Lawrence’s article in the drinks business, close to a third of producers in Bordeaux have now achieved France’s HVE (high environmental value) sustainability certification. This certification is more flexible than organic or biodynamic, as it offers producers the “right balance between ecological winegrowing and commercial pragmatism.” However, Lawrence notes how a number of Cru Classe estates are increasingly focused on “achieving organic and/or biodynamic certification.”

(Certified) Organic wine found to taste better

According to two studies, organic and biodynamic wines taste better than conventional wines, reports Lauren Eads in her article in the drinks business. The studies, conducted by Oliver Gergaud of KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux, and Magali Delmas of UCLA, were published in 2016 and 2021. The earlier study analysed scores of Californian wines and the more recent study analysed those of French wines. Both studies found that critics scored certified organic and biodynamic wines higher than self-labelled and conventional wines. In light of these findings, Eads questions why so many winemakers opt to hide their certifications when it comes to labelling. 

But how to communicate sustainability?

Certification is certainly an important tool when it comes to communicating with consumers. However, the proliferation of certification in the global wine industry risks further confusing consumers on an already complex topic of sustainability. Andrew Catchpole discusses this issue in his article for Harpers and emphasis the need for “greater alignment…for clear communication of the progress being made [in the industry].”

Wine fraud is on the rise 

In SevenFifty Daily Lana Bortolot warns of the rise in counterfeit wine. With an increasing number of fine wine purchases taking place online as a result of the pandemic, consumers are less able to detect fraudulent bottles. Bortolot provides a number of preventative actions and tips from professionals on spotting fakes. 

The future of wine packaging

In Drinks Retailing News, Sonya Hook takes a look at the innovative wine packaging methods currently on the market and contemplates their future. The UK saw an increase in boxed wine, canned wine, and flat PET wine bottle sales in 2020. Hook wonders whether the spike in alternative packaging is a trend that’s here to stay, or whether the “increased demand [was] just an anomaly in an unprecedented year.”

Another new wine packaging format has recently been launched by Limerick Lane Cellars in Sonoma County. Sold under the brand Revelshine, the new aluminium wine bottle is intended for easy outdoor enjoyment and is “unbreakable [and] infinitely recyclable,” reports Lucy Shaw in the drinks business.

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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.