The SW Summary: On harvests and heatwaves, Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, Champagne’s bottle weight, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Harvests and heatwaves: The picking predicament 

Writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley reports on the challenging conditions of the harvest underway in California. Although California winemakers know to prepare for a ‘heat spike’ around this time of year, conditions have been hotter and tougher than expected. This has resulted in “a race through the vineyards” as many winemakers rush to pick the grapes before they burn.

Such sudden heatwaves place winemakers in a predicament. Do they pick the grapes before temperatures soar, when the grapes may not be at their optimal level of ripeness, leading to a ‘green’ taste? Or do they wait and harvest after the heat spike, allowing the grapes to “mature and develop deeper flavors,” but at the risk of the grapes shrivelling?

Mobley notes how it’ll certainly be a difficult year, especially for natural winemakers. Whether the grapes are too ripe or unripe, natural winemakers will “just [have to live] with whatever [they’ve] got.” Read more here. 

Europe’s early harvests: Low yield, high quality

In the drinks business Eloise Feilden shares the details of the early harvests experienced throughout various French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German wine regions. Extreme heatwaves and drought throughout Europe over the summer have resulted in early ripening, therefore bringing the harvests forward. Feilden notes how although many regions are reporting lower yields as a result of these challenging conditions, the grape quality seems to be high. Overall, there’s “a positive buzz about the vintage this year.” Read the details here.

Producers fees announced for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme

In Drinks Retailing Rachel Badham reports on the recently announced producer fees for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Expected to launch in August 2023, the scheme will require participation of all producers and retailers selling single-use drinks containers. Consumers will need to pay a “refundable 20p deposit for all purchases of single-use PET plastic, aluminium, steel or glass drinks containers” sized between 50ml to 3 litres.

To ensure the smooth running of the DRS, producers will have to pay fees based on the number and type of containers they put on the market. The recently announced fees are: 3.17p for PET, 3.42p for metal and 4.54p for glass. Read more about the scheme here.

Light and bubbly: Champagne’s challenges to reduce bottle weight

Over half of wine’s carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing and shipping of the glass  bottle. In light of this, many wineries throughout the industry are exploring alternative packaging formats and lightweighting glass. However, as Kathleen Willcox notes in Wine Industry Advisor, Champagne and sparkling wine made in the méthode champenoise style face an added challenge in this area.

Champagne bottles require glass strong and thick enough to resist the extreme pressure that is built up during the second fermentation process. As Régis Maillet, director of marketing and communications for Saverglass, a specialist in the manufacturing of glass bottles, explains: “Champagne bottles must have specific physical properties to withstand the natural pressures of sparkling wines. The bottle must be robust, and is designed to resist a minimum pressure of 20 atmospheres. The slightest imperfection on a bottle can affect its resistance.”

The weight of a standard Champagne bottle has reduced significantly over time. Starting out at 1,250g in the early 20th century, a standard light weight bottle today weighs 835g. Efforts are underway to reduce this even further. Champagne Telmont is leading the way with its experiments to safely reduce its bottles to 800g, the lightest Champagne bottle yet. Find out more 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.