Saving the planet with the Wine Society: Richard Esling February 23

During our days, weeks and months of lockdown and social deprivation over the past year, we have all had more time to reflect on matters which concern not only ourselves, but the well-being of our entire ecosystem.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 4:47 pm
Lighter bottles... and vegan friendly SUS-210222-160444001

So far this year, I have already drawn attention to moves by an increasing number of wine producers around the world, towards organic production and sustainability.

The need to reduce pollution of all types, increase sustainability and move towards a carbon neutral society is of paramount importance. Many years ago, when I was studying and working as a biologist before entering the wine trade, there were all the books, debates and warnings about how we were destroying our own environment. Sadly, few of the warnings have been heeded over the past 40 years, although thankfully there are now some signs of change.

We can now all do our bit to help, whether as individuals in our lifestyle choices and recycling habits, or as companies with a robust policy of Corporate Social Responsibility, which includes carbon footprint reduction and eliminating single use plastic. As a company owned by its members, The Wine Society has introduced a number of initiatives designed to combat the misuse of our precious world.

The weight of the glass in a wine bottle is a major contributor to the CO2 emissions in a bottle’s life cycle and The Society’s aim is to reduce this significantly. A heartening trend for 2021 is The Society’s move away from heavy glass bottles for its Society and Exhibition ranges. The first wines in the Society’s own-label ranges to be re-bottled are now being rolled out, as director of wine Pierre Mansour explains: “The glass bottle accounts for approximately 40 per cent of a 75cl bottle of wine’s total CO2 emissions throughout its life, and so an easy way to improve efficiency is by reducing the weight of glass.’

“This reduction in weight equates to a possible saving of just over 100g CO2 per bottle from production to pulling the cork. To put this in context, based on the number of bottles we expect members to buy of the first three wines over a 12-month period, the total saving is the equivalent of flying me to Rioja (and back) 94 times! These are quick wins and we will continue to explore these whilst we develop the business’s strategic approach to all matters ethical, social and environmental.”

The Society’s Rioja Crianza 2017, £8.95 is a traditional style wine from the tempranillo grape, mellow, juicy and oaky. The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie 2019, £10.50 is from one of the best known of all the Beaujolais crus. Fragrant, rich and fruity, with succulent fruit together with good depth and length. Both in the new lighter bottles.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle, but also reducing use of animals – a further cause of increased C0₂ - are wines which are vegan friendly. As a committed omnivore, I may never become a vegan, but I am very keen on reducing or eliminating unnecessary use of animal products. In wine, animal products can be used for clarifying purposes, but there are alternatives. Perhaps there is a case for all wines being vegan friendly? Here are two I highly recommend, which are both inexpensive and fabulous.

Percheron Chenin-Blanc-Viognier Western Cape 2020, £6.95 Ripe stone-fruit from the Chenin Blanc blended with a little aromatic viognier. Viña Zorzal Garnacha, Navarra 2019, £7.50. From next-door to Rioja, fresh, juicy, delicious and very charming.