Fine wine, like any industry, has been forced to take environmental factors into consideration as the mounting impact of climate change is felt across the globe. Wine makers in Europe, North America, and further afield have been encouraged to begin producing wine in environmentally sustainable ways and as such, a number of different designations have emerged to demarcate the measures that have gone into the production of a particular vintage. This guide from UKV International will cover the three most common designations that indicate that the wine that you are purchasing has been produced in an environmentally sustainable way. Some of these supposedly eco-friendly wines in fact have much stricter measures in place than others and therefore it pays to be informed if you are an environmentally conscious consumer or investor.
Achieving the label of “sustainable” is, for a lot of winemakers, the most attractive option when deciding to produce environmentally friendly wine. Typically, wines marketed as sustainable pose the fewest number of challenges to winemakers across the entire process, from grape to bottle. There is no global standard for “sustainable” wine, however, the International Organisation for Standardisation does offer a series of guidelines and standards that can help winemakers ensure that their production procedures are up to scratch.
These guidelines can typically be fairly comprehensive and therefore include a number of different measures. Important factors in the production of sustainable wine may include: ensuring that biodiversity in the region is maintained despite it being utilised for grape vines, implementing techniques to both cut down on water use and recycle the water that does get used in the process, reducing overall waste and the carbon footprint of the process, and employing renewable technologies in order to facilitate all of the above points.
As it stands, many of the most renowned wine growing regions already employ these techniques and therefore market their wine under the International Organisation for Standardisation label when presenting their wine for purchase. These regions include a number of the prestigious Bordeaux Chateaux, Chilean, and Australian wine.
Organic wine represents some of the most stringent considerations being met in the wine producing process. It is far less common than sustainable wine due to the increased number of regulations that must be met by growers. The organic wine industry has historically only accounted for a small percentage of the global market, but interest has skyrocketed in the last decade as environmental concerns have been more prevalent with consumers and investors alike.
Organic wines tend to have a much shorter shelf life than other wines due to the absence of added or artificial preservative elements in the vintages. In the United States, for example, the organic label is only awarded to wines that do not contain any sulphites. This is a major turn-off for some producers as sulphur is, by far, the most effective natural preservative element that can be added to wine. The grapes must also be organically grown and cannot contain any synthetic pesticides.
In Europe, the restrictions are slightly less pronounced. The grapes must still be organically grown, but the use of sulphites is permitted as long as it kept to a low level. This has resulted in European “organic” wine having a longer shelf life than their American counterparts.
Biodynamic wine is a strange case. The concept was originally developed by Rudolf Steiner around half a century ago. Biodynamic wine also forgoes the use of any synthetic pesticides and preservatives, whilst aiming to take a more holistic approach to the wine growing process. Biodynamic wine takes some other, more eclectic, factors into consideration also. Lunar cycles and astrological charts are taken into account, as well as specific soil preparation techniques. UKV International stated that, ‘Whilst not based in evidence-based scientific research, biodynamic wine techniques are still employed by vineyards in Burgundy and Rhone Valley, some of the most prestigious investment wine regions.’