If you are an ordinary consumer in Shanghai enjoying a glass of dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, or a New Yorker tasting a glass of a full-bodied wine from the Douro Valley, Portugal, chances are you would not dream that the beautiful, heavy bottle in front of you is by far the element that contributes the most to your wine’s carbon footprint. But that is a given fact, that the bottle alone, along with its transportation, accounts for approximately 40% to 50% of its whole carbon accounting. And it is not the transport that weighs the most, it is the packaging.
Starting at the very beginning, glass is made with a glowing mixture of high-temperature melted sand and minerals, through an extremely carbon-intensive process, that consumes tremendous amounts of energy. Yet, it is argued, no other type of wine container is as inert, providing the safest option in terms of food security and keeping wine safe, with oxygen away from it, for decades, even centuries in a row. Recycled glass can easily be upcycled, and integrated in the production of new products, without compromising quality. And various global glass players are, either individually or by joining hands, acting to revert their impact. Other factors come into play. In many cases, the bottle is sourced in another country or continent. This means it travelled halfway around the world to get to the premises of the wine producer to be bottled, and then shipped again to various countries to be enjoyed by consumers.
But we cannot say that the further away the source, the most environmentally impactful it will be. You see, in this equation, the means of transport count significantly, as big container vessels (sea transport) are way more efficient than transport by land, such as trucks. After you have had that wonderful bottle of wine, you can recycle it infinitely (the glass bottle, not the wine...). But recycling rates vary tremendously from country to country and sometimes from region to region, through a high energy process. The fact is: the simplest way to address wine’s carbon footprint is by starting with your bottle.
Exploring solutions: what would it take for producers to collectively reduce the weight of their bottle? or to package their wines in containers made from carbon intensive materials, from a carbon standpoint, such as bag-in-box or aluminum? Or for the industry to create reusable schemes for glass bottles? And how relevant is cork in offsetting part (or all?) of this carbon impact? And how impactful are other materials, from labels to shrink-wrap, from capsules to cartons? In this climate talk we will do just that: explore solutions to reduce wine’s carbon footprint through packaging and what does that encapsulate: consumer’s perception (or would that be producers’?), the “but’s” that come with alternative options (non-recyclable components, oxygen ingress, food safety issues, to fossil fuels origin), but also the change they can bring to the industry. The Porto Protocol Foundation, in partnership with Communal Brand and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (Boldly NY), bring you various stakeholders of the value chain to discuss the topic.