Green Wine? Yes. How?

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wine grapesThis morning as I woke up to my clock radio, the one minute Project Green segment came on the Rush Limbaugh leaning KNCO AM. It reported on a recent meeting of California wine growers, all 26 of which are talking preliminary to major efforts to green their operations, product, and packaging.

Somehow this doesn’t surprise me. Vintners are acutely aware of the health of their environment, their plants, and the resulting product. With the refined and particular tastes of many of their consumers, a lackluster wine will lead to lackluster profits. Beyond that though, their customers are, I would venture to guess, more likely to be of the LOHAS mindset, choosing what they consume based on more factors then simply the cheapest available. They want everything they touch to have thought, consciousness, and a lighter impact on the planet factored into them.

How can a wine be green? The grapes themselves can of course be organic, the growing method biodynamic. But what else?

The bottle. Glass is recyclable, but the bottles are quite heavy, and shipping them takes much more resources then is ultimately necessary. New options are emerging, such as French Rabbit’s Tetrapak based packaging, putting wine into an intriguing shape, in a material that is apparently becoming increasingly recyclable, due to Tetrapak’s efforts. It saves resources, both in the actual container, and the shipping of it, since it’s foldable. But is the broader wine drinking population ready for this?

Then there’s the top: Cork or screw top? This has been a topic of debate, as aluminum is recyclable, but it’s not clear how well it helps the wine “age.” Cork, it turns out, is renewable. It comes from trees, the material shaved off them much like shearing a sheep, growing back, providing 100,000 people with jobs. And they can be recycled, through companies like Terracycle, that have cork “brigades,” paying people per cork, turning them into new products.

What else? Water. Lots of it. From the fields to the tasting room, a lot of water is used at a vineyard. Can wine be grown with less water? Can the water used in the tasting room be reused to water the field? Will that affect taste? These are questions currently being asked. Or they should be, as water isn’t or won’t be the given abundant resource it used to be thought of.

The equipment. Can vehicles run on biodiesel? Reprocessed wine dregs? Agricultural waste? What other ways can the processing plant be powered? Solar, wind, and other on site options come to mind first, but beyond that, perhaps they can take cues from beer companies like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada and reuse waste heat to power, heat, or even cool other parts of the facility?

There’s much more that can be done, but I invite you to put your mind around it. How else do you see a vineyard, or for that manner, any beverage producing company, becoming greener? Chime in, below.

Additional reading about greening wine:

Boxing In Green Wine ~ Ecopreneurist

How to Use Offsets in Your Marketing ~ Ecopreneurist

Less is More: A Truly Green Good is Packaged Green ~ Ecopreneurist

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Image credit: Zsuzsanna Kilián

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