The SW Summary: On Nordic alcohol monopolies, tracing terroir, drought-resistant ungrafted vines, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Nordic monopolies are driving sustainable transformation

In Wine Business International Petri Pellinen explores the practicality of the Nordic alcohol monopolies’ joint climate program. The five monopolies – Finland’s Alko, Sweden’s Systembolaget, Norway’s Vinmonopolet, Iceland’s Vínbúðin and the Faroe Islands’ Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins – announced their plan to collectively halve carbon emissions by 2030 (from 2019 levels.) This will require significant action throughout each stage of the value chain, involving both consumers and industry professionals. Whilst an exact action plan on how this target will be reached has not yet been defined, the monopolies have outlined the following eight key principles:

  1. “Minimizing suppliers’ use of heavy weight glass bottles
  2. Maximizing the use of low carbon footprint packaging
  3. Maximizing the use of recycled material
  4. Maximizing the recyclability of all their packaging
  5. Eliminating unnecessary packaging
  6. Supporting new innovative low carbon packaging solutions
  7. Implementing best practices for energy efficient and low carbon transportation
  8. Encouraging the implementation of best practices including, but not limited to, soil health, agrochemicals, biodiversity, circularity, water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions”

Each monopoly will develop a framework for their specific market. Although all five countries have high levels of consumer awareness of environmental issues, widespread acceptance of alternative packaging and recycling rates over 90%, there are still significant differences across the markets in terms of pricing and behaviour. These differences pose challenges for producers, alongside the increased costs and business risk related to new packaging. Read more here.

Tracing terroir

In Decanter Chris Mercer reports on the latest technology to prove the provenance of fine wines. Pyramid Valley, a vineyard in New Zealand, has partnered with forensic science company Oritain “to ‘fingerprint’ vineyard terroir.” The technology analyses the elements in a vineyard parcel and compares these to the elements in the finished wine, thereby offering verification of provenance.

The companies shared a joint-statement explaining how “as a grapevine grows, it absorbs a unique ratio of elements depending on the mesoclimate, altitude, precipitation, soil type and growing conditions.” This ratio can be identified in the finished wine and “remains through the life of the wine.” 

Pyramid Valley’s wines are the first to use the Oritain system. The bottle labels include a QR code which drinkers can scan to see the provenance guarantee. Read more here.

Ungrafted vines deal better with drought

Writing for the drinks business Patrick Schmitt shares how ungrafted wines have emerged as the winners in Chile and Spain’s “drought-stuck 2022 vintage.” Growing vines without rootstocks,or piè franco (‘free feet’), is not possible in many places. This is mostly due to the presence of grape phylloxera, the grapevine eating pests that almost wiped out European wine in the late 1800s. Since then, almost all European vineyards have been grafted onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks.

Some of the rare locations unaffected by the bugs (due to the soil type) can be found in Toro in Spain and in South America. Many vintners opt to grow ungrafted wines where possible given the ability of such vines to “root deeply and find reserves of ground water,” thereby making them more drought resistant. Schmitt shares how various winemakers in Spain and Chile reported superior performance of their ungrafted vines compared to those on roostocks in the increasingly arid conditions experienced this year. However, as Concha y Toro’s technical director Marcelo Papa points out, the advantages of growing piè franco largely depend on the grape variety. Read more here.

Wine marketing needs to make efforts to better serve people of color

The New York Wine & Grape Foundation shares the results of the Wine Market Council and EthniFacts LLC’s latest Multicultural Study on the “cultural barriers and opportunities to wine consumption of Hispanic and African American consumers.” The research highlights “the need for authentic cross-cultural marketing and community efforts to target these ever-growing consumer segments in the U.S.”

The main findings from a series of interviews with Hispanic and African American wine consumers include:

  1. “More energy is needed; representation matters in marketing. 
  2. Less formal; show wine in everyday situations.
  3. Become socially familiar; connect to culture authentically in a familiar social, local, and casual way.
  4. Celebrate culturally diverse foods and wine.
  5. Too white; increase the visibility of diverse backgrounds. 
  6. Not manly; breaking barriers about drinking wine. 
  7. High barriers to entry, making wine more accessible. 
  8. Not marketed to Hispanics and African Americans; collaborate with diverse influencers. Representation matters in the workforce.”

Read 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.