The SW Summary: On the realities of organic, the UK’s fruitful 2022 harvest, the meaning of ‘low-intervention’ in wine, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Organic isn’t always more sustainable

Following one of the most demanding and driest harvests in Portugal’s Douro Valley, Eloise Feilden reports on the impacts of global warming in the drinks business, noting that it is no longer a future problem, but an imminent one. Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership and founder of the Porto Protocol,  has been leading industry “[discussions] on possible solutions to climate change challenges.” Not only will Taylor Fladgate run entirely on renewable energy by 2023, but the company is committed to reducing water usage, efficient waste management and sustainable viticulture practices.

Organic viticulture is part of this, but Bridge stresses how “organic is not the solution.” The carbon footprint of the company’s organic Port is far higher than their normal Port due to the increase in machine use that organic viticulture demands. Instead, he advocates for a more flexible approach to sustainable viticulture, “which allows you to use a selective amount of products, but in a sparing capacity.” Read more here.

An optimistic outlook on the UK’s 2022 harvest

Writing for Decanter Chris Mercer reports on the UK’s 2022 wine harvest. Despite the fact that this year was one of the hottest and driest summers on record, the long and warm growing season has enabled UK vineyards to produce ‘exceptional’ fruit. Mercer speaks to various wineries throughout the UK about how their harvests are shaping up, with many winemakers noting the good yields and balanced sugar and acidity levels.

As growing seasons continue to get warmer in the UK, recent research projects that “the next two decades could lead to more frequent top vintages and new areas of the UK becoming suitable for vineyards.” Producers are busy experimenting with different grape varieties in the face of the changing climate. Read more here.

What does ‘low-intervention’ actually mean in wine?

This is the question Zach Geballe asks in his article for VinePair. Wine is a “fundamentally high-intervention product”  which requires plenty of human guidance in both the vineyard and winery. So why is the industry championing a term that downplays the importance of the winemaker? 

Regardless of the decisions taken throughout the winemaking process –  be that to (not) add yeast or sulfites, to (not) age the wine in new oak barrels, or to (not) use fining agents – these decisions all utilise the knowledge, skill and labour of the winemaker. As Geballe points out, “making the decision not to do something is often as impactful as deciding to take a certain action.” Read more here.

SWR Global Sustainability Reference Standard: Progress to date

One of the key projects underway at the Sustainable Wine Roundtable is the development of the SWR Global Sustainability Reference Standard. The first phase of this development process involves the evaluation of all existing local and regional sustainability standards in wine. This SWR Global Mapping and Benchmarking Process began in July and is being led by Dr. Peter Stanbury, head of research at the SWR. 

The first stage of the benchmarking process is now complete. This included the review of 20 standards documentation, 35 meetings with standard holders and other interested parties, and the exploration of standards and benchmarking processes in other sectors. Earlier this week the SWR held a members’ meeting in which Peter shared the findings to date and next steps.

The review revealed that whilst “many standards are excellent in one or more regards”, no single standard “excels in all issue areas.” A significant knowledge gap exists in the area of human and labour rights, as none of the standards effectively address these issues. The findings emphasised the complexity of what sustainability means in wine, highlighting how context is key and how ultimately, when it comes to comparing standards, there is no ‘right answer.’ 

Next steps involve the definition of a Global Reference Standard, alignment on other key factors (i.e. the level of detail needed in a standard, auditing, inclusivity), and a gap analysis of existing standards to the SWR Global Reference Standard. 

If you have any questions or comments regarding this work, please contact Peter at

If you are interested in becoming a member of the SWR and take part in this important and necessary work, please contact Tom Owtram at or click here to view the membership application form.

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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.