The SW Summary: On lighter bottles, the glyphosate debate, the future of bulk wine, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Bordeaux in a 300g bottle

The Bordeaux producers looking to lightweight their bottles now have a new option available to them: the Bordeaux Air 300g. Meininger’s highlights the new bottle developed by Verallia, Europe’s largest manufacturer of glass packaging for food and beverages. Weighing only 300g, the bottle preserves the “iconic and aesthetic contours that have distinguished the classic Bordeaux bottle for generations.” 

Corinne Payen, head of research and development at Verallia, shares the challenges encountered throughout the project. “In our journey, we pioneered by developing models to analyze the mechanical resistance of the bottle, taking into account factors such as impact resistance and vertical load capacity. These modeling tools also provided insights into optimizing the precise distribution of glass, considering the shape design and forming parameters.” Read more here.

Controversy abounds over EU’s glyphosate approval 

In Nature Barbara Casassus discusses the European Union’s recent decision to extend the licence for glyphosate, approving its use in the EU for another ten years. Following a stalemate among member states during a vote at an appeal committee, the commission decided to renew the licence “subject to certain new conditions and restrictions.” These include a ban on using the weedkiller on dry crops before harvest, as well as a requirement for “for certain measures to protect non-target organisms.” Furthermore, governments can restrict the use of glyphosate in their own countries if they deem it necessary to protect biodiversity. 

The commission’s decision on the controversial weedkiller has provoked a mixture of responses. Among those who welcome the extended approval is Robin Mesnage, a toxicologist at King’s College London. He points to the overwhelming amount of conflicting studies on the product, noting that “if glyphosate were to be banned, the chemicals used to replace it could potentially be more toxic and could increase the cost of food production.”

Others vehemently disagree. Campaigner Natacha Cingotti from the Health and Environment Alliance says, “It is unacceptable that the commission still plans to go ahead with its proposal, considering the amount of scientific evidence of the substance’s health impacts.” Read more here.

The future of bulk wine

In Harpers Jo Gilbert explores the optimistic outlook for bulk shipping in wine. The increased urgency around decarbonisation has helped rebrand bulk as a “viable shipping operation for premium wine businesses around the world.” Barry Dick, beer, wine and spirit global bulk sourcing manager at Waitrose, explains how when he was first brought into his role in 2022, “there was maybe some prejudice against bulk shipping among some colleagues… which was partly to look at bulk as one of the best efficiencies to improve the range.” Now, however, bulk is “accepted from a quality point of view” and “in terms of de-carbonisation, it’s the starting point for a great discussion,” he says.

The Wine Society has set an ambitious target of net zero by 2040 across scopes 1, 2 and 3. The retailer has been busy trialling alternative formats and bulkshipped wines, but these still remain only a small fragment of sales. Simon Mason, head of wine sustainability and due diligence at the Wine Society, acknowledges that if they are to reach their decarbonisation goals, they will have “to make significant changes in the way [they] do things.”

Although bulk shipping is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for wine businesses, this year’s low harvest may create a sticking point for the bulk market. Gilbert explains how the slowdown of wine production this year resulted in a “significant decline of global container rates… leading to a concern that some containers and tanks could be removed from circulation.”  and set back the bulk market by several years.” Read the full article here.

EU measures for sustainability in the wine sector fall short 

Meininger’s looks at the European Court of Auditors’ (ECA) criticism of the EU’s support for viticulture. In a report called “Restructuring and Planting of Vineyards in the EU,” the ECA highlights the lack of environmental ambition and the unclear effects on competitiveness of the EU measures.

Under the reforms in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that came into effect at the start of 2023, member states must only direct 5% of their wine sector subsidy funds towards sustainability initiatives. Not only do the auditors find this figure to be fairly low, but they also note how the stipulation lacks “structure and purpose.” For example, France and Italy could meet the 5% criterion “exclusively through the distillation of by-products.”

The auditors also lament how EU policy fails to foster competitiveness. In an attempt to support winegrowers to be more competitive, the EU offers funding for the restructuring and planting of vineyards. However, in this ECA publication, the auditors note how “projects are financed irrespective of content or ambition,” often with little consideration for environmental goals. Neither the Commission nor member states assess “how the projects that are supported actually help to make wine growers more competitive.” Read more in the Meininger’s article here and the ECA article here.

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