When Spanish wine producer and journalist Victor de la Serna told me how much less his 2008 production would weigh after he switched to lighter bottles, I thought he had put a decimal point in the wrong place. Jancis Robinson pulls no punches in her impassioned appeal to the wine industry’s ‘green’ conscience, in this extract from her column in Sommelier India WINE magazine, January/February 2010.
When Spanish wine producer and journalist Victor de la Serna told me how much less his 2008 production would weigh after he switched to lighter bottles, I thought he had put a decimal point in the wrong place. But no, he assured me, by choosing 400g bottles in place of the old 650g models for Finca Sandoval, his relatively small winery in the Spanish region of Manchuela, he would be saving 20 tons of glass, and of course all the energy required to transport that extra weight.
I did another double-take towards the end of last year when Nicola Jenkin of WRAP, the UK body that encourages sustainable business practices, told delegates at the Wine Future conference in Rioja quite how much glass the world’s wine industry uses each year: the equivalent in weight of 49,000 jumbo jets.
The day after she delivered her bracing talk to almost 1,000 wine luminaries from around the world, I discussed it with the head of one of Spain’s largest wine companies. “Well, that sort of thing doesn’t really matter, does it?” he said. “I mean, wine’s one of the most natural products on earth.” This was just before he proudly showed me his new, 2,400 sq m barrel hall, installed on top of a hill and as tall as a three-storey house, but with every barrel on the floor. He did admit that the air conditioning bills in summer were considerable, failing entirely to see the irony of being surrounded by scores of small, private wine cellars, all carefully burrowed out of the hillside to take advantage of the naturally cool temperatures there.
The wine industry may not be the worst offender in the global scheme of things at a time when the planet seems to have such a desperately short time to avert disaster, but precisely because wine has (so far) enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most ‘natural’ products, wine producers should surely do everything they can to preserve that image – difficult enough in view of several recent television exposés alerting consumers to the chemical additives used by many producers in both vineyards and cellars. Some observers think that public attitudes will change so fast that before too long we will want to see carbon footprint details on all wine labels.
Read the whole article in print in Sommelier India WINE magazine, January/February 2010. Subscribe here.
Errata: Please note the correction: The glass used by the world’s wine industry each year is the equivalent in weight of 49,000 jumbo jets and not the figure quoted in print.