The SW Summary: On farmer protests, regenerative viticulture, packaging innovation, and more

By Hanna Halmari

The “legislative death” of the EU’s Sustainable Use Regulation

Farmers across Europe have been protesting over the last weeks, demanding for less stringent EU regulations, more government support, and tighter controls on non-EU country produce. A key grievance among farmers has been the EU’s Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR), aimed to halve the use of pesticides by 2030. Having divided the EU since its inception in June 2022, the proposed law has now been withdrawn.

In a speech earlier this month, head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said farmers “deserve to be listened to” and urged more trust to be placed in them: “Only if our farmers can live off the land will they invest in the future. And only if we achieve our climate and environmental goals together, will farmers be able to continue to make a living.”

Despite the withdrawal, the Commission president stressed the urgent need for the agricultural sector to shift towards a “more sustainable model of production.” Pesticide reduction will remain on the EU’s sustainability agenda, but what this looks like remains to be seen. Whilst farmer lobbies throughout Europe celebrate the scrapping of the pesticide law, environmental groups lament the reversal. Read more on Euronews and the BBC.

Regenerative is all the rage

Regenerative farming has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Whilst many of us will undoubtedly be familiar with the term, how well do we actually understand it? And what about regenerative certification? What role does certification play and what does this actually entail? 

In Wine Enthusiast Kate Dingwall takes a look at the growing list of regenerative certifications and asks the straightforward question of “are they worth it?”. 

From Regenified to Regenerative Organic Alliance to Certified Regenerative, the various certification programs differ in their specifics, but share common goals such as carbon sequestration, boosting biodiversity, soil restoration, and the creation of more resilient ecosystems. These are all certainly desirable outcomes, but is it necessary to be certified, especially given the associated costs? Some strongly believe so.

Dingwall spoke to a number of producers who explained how their decision to certify was largely driven by the complex sustainability messaging landscape. Given the confusion around what sustainability means and the plethora of sustainability claims in the wine industry, they believe that regenerative certification helps to differentiate them. They also want to show the rest of the industry that profitability and regenerative farming can go hand in hand.

Whilst I can understand their point of view, I wonder if consumers are any better equipped to understand (or care about?) the difference in sustainability certifications – be that organic, ‘sustainable’, or regenerative. And what about the unintended consequences of standardizing regenerative under a set of strict practices? As Dr Peter Stanbury points out in the SWR Global Reference Framework for Sustainability in Wine, what works in one location may not work in another. “Wines themselves are defined by their terroir; it makes sense that wine standards should also be defined in the same way.”

Wine by the glass, sent to your door

When it comes to waste in relation to wine consumption, we think first and foremost of wine packaging. But what about leftover unused wine? The Online Tasting Company (OTC) has addressed both issues in their new product Trivino™. The variety pack consists of twelve 100ml portions of premium wines, offering consumers flexibility in both choice and amount of wine consumed. 

Trivino™ eliminates “the common dilemma of unused wine going off and being discarded” as well as reduces packaging waste. The fully recyclable variety pack weights the same as a standard bottle of wine, but includes 60% more wine and 75% less packaging waste by weight. The product uses OTC’s unique ecoSIP™ packaging technology that “protects even the finest wines just as well as a conventional glass bottle and cork combination, using less than three grams of material per serving and with an ultra-low carbon footprint.” Find out more here.

Key takeaways from Tasting Climate Change 2024

The 2024 Tasting Climate Change conference took place earlier this year in Montreal. It brought together around 400 industry stakeholders from around the world, including the SWR and numerous members. The two day conference addressed the key climate issues, challenges and opportunities facing the wine industry. 

Panel discussions focused on topics such as soil health, regenerative agriculture, and the role of certifications. Bottle weight was another key issue explored, given its significant contribution to a winery’s carbon footprint. Speaking on a panel about working collectively, Sustainable Wine Roundtable’s Tom Owtram stressed how “we have to bust the myth of heavyweight bottles being directly connected to quality.” 

The importance of improving soil health, going beyond organic viticulture, the role of innovation, and the need to work together emerged as key themes throughout the two days. Read Michaela Morris’s key takeways in Decanter 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.