The SW Summary: On digital wine labelling, added sulfites, Scotland’s delayed deposit return scheme and more

By Hanna Halmari
Are digital ingredients labels enough?

In Barrons Eric Randolph reports on the increasing demands for ingredient labelling on wine bottles. Wine can contain a number of additives, including “sulfur, sugar, egg white, dried fish bladders, enzymes from a pig or cow pancreas.” As of December 8th this year, European wineries will be required to disclose the ingredients in their wine. However, this can be done with the use of a QR code that link to a website, thereby still keeping the ingredients off the bottle.

Environmental campaigners argue the approach is “unworkable” and that it fails to promote the EU’s priority to “green agriculture.” The Transparency for Organic World Association (TOWA), an activist group, laments that QR codes and digital labels are “typical of a system” that still largely benefits conventional farmers. Olivier Paul-Morandini of TOWA argues that “we don’t need just a list of ingredients. We should have a list of all the consequences of conventional farming and how much they cost.”

In response, the wine industry claims that it cannot be treated the same as other foodstuffs. The CEEV, or Comite Europeen des Entreprises Vins that represents the industry in Brussels, posits that since “wine does not follow a recipe” and depends on climatic conditions, “the ingredients are not the same from one harvest to another.” This requires a certain degree of flexibility, and digital labelling is the “only realistic way to get all the EU’s winemakers onboard” and not disrupt trade. Read more here.

Why sulfites aren’t the reason for your hangover

Speaking of additives, in Wine Enthusiast John Capone explains why we shouldn’t be afraid of sulfur in wine. Sulfur has been used to protect and preserve wine since the 18th century. More modern, Capone points out, is the misconception that sulfites are the reason for a headache the morning after drinking wine. The number of people in the population who actually suffer from sulfur sensitivity “[pales] in comparison to the number of people who claim that their hangover is related to the additive.”

Added sulfur typically amounts to less than 50 – 200 ppm in the finished product. These levels are harmless to almost everyone. In comparison, french fries can contain up to 2,000 ppm and dried fruit up to 10,000 ppm. Still, some avid natural wine proponents have taken a “hardline stance” on zero-sulfurs. However, dogma is never a good thing. As Capone points out,“there’s no real and responsible case to be made” for not intervening. Read the article here.

“The sustainability of a wine is like Schrodinger’s Cat”

So says Joe Fattorini in a recently published article on his website in which he discusses the current issues in our understanding of sustainabilty and wine. Wine has an “original sin” in that it’s a luxury product made from mono-culture vineyards in one place, and consumed thousands of miles away in another. The sustainability of wine depends on how you look at it, notes Fattorini, pointing out how “wine can be simultaneously sustainable in the vineyard and not on the shop shelf.”

However, these nuances have been lost in the digital age of buying wine online with the use of algorithms. Wine falls into one of two categories: sustainable/not sustainable, organic/not organic, biodynamic/not biodynamic and so on. The reality is, of course, far more complex than these machine created binaries. Read the full article here.

Scotland delays deposit return scheme to 2025

In Sky News Jenness Mitchell reports on Scotland’s delayed deposit return scheme (DRS). Due to start this August, the controversial recycling initiative has been pushed back to October 2025 as a result of clashes with Westminster. As the rest of the UK will not adopt similar types of schemes until 2025, the Scottish government requires an exemption from the Internal Market Act, which aligns and regulates trade across the UK post-Brexit. The UK government granted an exemption,but with the condition that glass is not included in the scheme. Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf argues that without a full exemption, Westminster is “in danger of sinking this scheme in its entirety”. Read the article 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.