The SW Summary: On the the future of bâtonnage, sustainable winegrowing in Australia, a breakthrough discovery to identify smoke taint, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Bad news for bâtonnage

In Wine-Searcher Kathleen Willcox highlights the latest victim of climate change: Bâtonnage. Bâtonnage, or the stirring of lees (dead yeast) in the fermentation vessel, is an age-old practice used to add complexity, build structure and improve texture and mouthfeel of wine. However, in the face of a changing climate, bâtonnage seems to be less of an asset.

Many winemakers have found that lees stirring on warmer years “makes wine flat, with less energy.” This includes Lourenço Charters, winemaker and viticulture manager at Quinta Dos Murças in Douro, Portugal, and Quinta Do Ameal in Vinho Verde. Charters shares how they’re instead experimenting with alternative techniques to add complexity, such as fermenting and ageing wine in concrete. 

Whilst some wineries are shifting away from bâtonnage, others remain deeply committed to the technique. However, instead of sticking with the “standard recipe for lees-stirring”, many vintners are taking a case-by-case approach. For example, Jesse Lange, winemaker at Lange Winery in the Dundee Hills in Oregon, explains how their approach to bâtonnage is vintage-dependent. Read more here.

Sustainable winegrowing in Australia

Writing for ABC News, Eliza Berlage and Elsie Adamo report on two south Australian wine growers, Casey Lodewyk and David Zadow, who have recently become certified members of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia. The national program is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and “focuses on several key areas: land and soil, water, people and business, biodiversity, energy and waste.” Sustainable Winegrowing Australia now represents around 40% of Australia’s total wine production and can help “better market Australian wine to some emerging and existing trade partners.”

Lodewyk notes how becoming certified has provided her with the measurement and benchmarking data necessary to track the impact of her farming practices. Zadow emphasises how the certification has “allowed him to prove his environmental credentials, while improving his work life balance.” Read more here.

New chemical marker for identifying smoke taint

Given the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires caused by climate change, smoke taint is a growing concern within the wine industry. Wildfire smoke alters the composition of grapes and gives them an undesirable smoky flavour and aroma. To date, winemakers have had few tools to assess the level of smoke taint in their wines and have had to rely primarily on the frequent tasting of potentially impacted wine. However, researchers at the Oregon State University have made “a breakthrough discovery in understanding the chemical compound found in wines with smoke taint,” reports Alice Wade in the drinks business.

Associate professor of enology at Oregon State Elizabeth Tomasino shares how their research has identified a clear chemical indicator of smoke taint in wines: thiophenols. Thiophenols are sulphur-containing compounds that are not usually present in wine. Tomasino believes that this discovery can “provide a reliable way to identify smoke taint and ways to potentially eliminate it during the winemaking process.” Read more here.

Waitrose trials selling capsule-free wine 

In efforts to reduce unnecessary packaging, Waitrose is trialling sales of wine bottles without plastic and foil sleeves, reports Lucy Britner in Drinks Retailing News. The company is testing the capsule-free packaging on four wines from its Loved & Found wine and claims the move is “a first for UK supermarkets.” Barry Dick MW, beer, wine and spirit sourcing manager at Waitrose, explains how bottle neck sleeves were introduced many years ago to protect wine from “pests such as moths and weevils from ruining wines kept in dark, damp cellars.” However, better storage conditions mean sleeves are no longer necessary today. Read more here.

SWR Logo

Sustainable Wine is the free online magazine of the Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR).

Join 70+ companies in collaborating to define sustainable wine. Click below for details.

Find out more

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.