The SW Summary: On European heat waves, capsule-free wine and cork recycling, robots in the vineyard, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Europe is heating up: Early heat waves and dire droughts

In Decanter Chris Mercer reports on the state of emergency recently declared in northern Italy as the Po basin sees its lowest water reserve levels in decades. Across Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto farming groups are warning of a threat to food crops. Winemakers are not among the agricultural groups “most affected so far,” but producers are closely monitoring the situation as droughts have an impact on how grapes ripen and yields. The government will provide funds of £31m for drought relief to these regions. 

Italy is not alone. As Steven Bernard and Mumena Choudhury discuss in the Financial Times, countries across Europe have experienced intensive heat waves, kicking off the fire season earlier than usual. Spain and Germany saw fires as early as June, with respective temperatures reaching 43C and 39.2C. Over in France Rhône vineyards are still suffering from a record water shortage, following the hottest May the country has ever recorded. Read more in Vitisphere here

Capsule-free wine and cork recycling at Berry Bros. & Rudd 

In the drinks business Jessica Mason highlights the two new sustainability initiatives underway at Berry Bros. & Rudd. To make progress towards its 2030 sustainability goals, the company is launching a capsule-free wine and a cork recycling scheme. Customers will be able to enjoy a bottle of Provence Rosé without the wasteful foil casing and the company plans “to extend the range of [capsule-free] wines…in the coming months.”

Customers will also be able to return any leftover wine corks to the stores. The collected corks will be sent back to Portugal, where they were originally sourced from, “to be fully recycled or reused.” Lizzy Rudd, chair at Berry Bros. & Rudd notes how the new initiatives are “two admittedly small, but nonetheless important, steps along [the company’s] journey… to be more sustainable in all [they] do.” Read more here.

The autonomous tractors driving a new era in farming

The robotics invasion of the vineyards is speeding up,” says Roger Morris in his latest article on the developments in vineyard technology. In Meininger’s Wine Business International Morris notes how the industry is on the verge of “a new era in farming” as grape growers replace the conventional tractor with autonomous robotic tractors. Having first been introduced in Europe, these robots are now steadily making their way to California vineyards.

Robots not only reduce labor needs and costs, but they can also increase sustainability through more precise vineyard management and a lower carbon footprint. In the United States, for example, new manufacturers are focused on developing “fully electrical, battery-powered tractors that leave virtually no operational carbon footprint.” Technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) and artificial intelligence (AI) have been applied by winemakers around the world for years now. The next big step of combining these two functions with robotics is well underway, and “excites huge promise” from a sustainability, production, and quality-control perspective. 

Read more here

How to recognize a sustainable wine

With no universal definition of sustainable wine and a proliferation of certifications and standards, it’s no wonder that the eco-conscious consumer is left confused when trying to make a purchasing decision. In her article in Forbes, Jill Barth offers a few key things to look out for when faced with various sustainability claims:

  • What does sustainability mean to the producer? Has this been defined?
  • Is the winery engaged with the local community? Do its sustainability initiatives expand beyond the vineyard?
  • Is it part of a broader sustainability entity or certification scheme?
  • Does the organization have a credible leader?

Read the full 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.