Bottle Talk


The Porto Protocol Foundation recently held a virtual forum that the environmentally conscious should find informing.  Hopefully informing for every person on our planet, which is growing smaller every day and needs some TLC.  The subject of this forum is climate change mitigation, and the focal point is the wine bottle.

That appears a non-issue at first glance.  Let’s drill deeper.  Wine bottles are significant factors in the carbon footprint of the wine industry because so many are produced annually, and as an aggregate they have immense weight to transport.  Roughly 35-billion are manufactured each year.  Placed end-to-end to end, the bottles from just one year’s production would encircle the earth nearly 300 times!

The participants generally agree that bottle reuse will assist the worldwide wine community in reaching the Paris Agreement greenhouse gas emission goals.  So, what does the wine industry need to implement for bottle recycling?  Probably change the container and its treatment.  It turns out that the vessel of choice for wine that is not to be consumed immediately is glass.  What’s true is if the weight of the wine bottle was reduced , and it was recycled, great progress could be made towards justifying the continued use of glass.

Although aesthetics is a factor with some people, change is not as difficult as it sometimes seems.  I was not enamored with the concept of screwcaps until I felt that crisp crack when I opened a screwcap on a bottler of Roussanne.  And so easy to close and reopen.

We may have to relinquish either the Burgundy or Bordeaux shoulders for now, and possibly clear glass which showcases the beautiful gold of Sauternes, Barsac, and the many hues of rosé, but sometimes needs prove to be merely whims, or eventually someone makes a business out of a method to return something that was thought departed.  What’s important?  Our planet!

Several professionals who are involved in the wine community discuss their vision of a sustainable wine industry in terms of the wine bottle.  Diana Snowden Seysses acts as moderator in this discussion.  She is winemaker at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, and winemaker-proprietor at Snowden Vineyards in the Napa Valley.  She is also a member of the steering committee at the Porto Protocol Foundation, an open platform for ideas and practicable solutions to mitigate climate change.  Diana envisions the impact on sustainability from utilizing a single, industry standard bottle type.

Several participants in this discussion favor the reusable bottle as the most practical sustainable step forward, although some have experimented with alternative packaging.  Those focusing on the bottle solution included Lise Rolland, marketing and communications director at OÉ, a certified B Corp.  OÉ is an organization providing French produced wines that are organic, vegan and pesticide-free from winegrowers who are dedicated to preserving biodiversity.  The wines are offered in in reusable bottles, capsule-free to avoid waste,  sealed with natural cork from a Forest Stewardship Council woodland, branded by labels of 95% sugar cane excess and 5% hemp and flax, with water-soluble glue attachment permitting easy removal during recycling.  Lise offered the suggestion that customers would be more prone to recycle bottles if informed specifically where and how to return their bottles in a clear format.  A logo on OÉ bottles acts as an admonition to return it for recycling.

Malissa Saunders has earned a Master of Wine diploma, is Wine Director at Good Goods, a resource for people who want to buy things that make the world better, and founder of Communal Brands, who describe themselves as a wine importer and distributor that blends respected traditions with new ideas.  Malissa has looked into multiple solutions for the wine bottle, explaining that at Good Goods, bottles are scanned upon return and the client is incentivized by receiving a one US Dollar credit towards their next purchase.  She also has produced the bag and box for the lowest carbon footprint, at least for wines that are not to be aged, noting it takes time to wash and reuse bottles with time and money required for recycling glass.

Muriel Chatel, UK, is managing director of Borough Wines & Sustainable Wine Solutions.  SWS call themselves the ultimate sustainable service provider for the wine trade.  Their bottles bear a white mark indicating recycling, which reminds buyers to return them.  SWS also sources wines from around the world, focusing on offerings that are organic, vegan and biodynamic.  Originally from a family of winemakers in Bergerac, France, Muriel is responsible for pioneering wine on tap in the UK.

Bernard Grafé, proprietor at Grafé Lecocq, cycles 400,000 to-500,000 bottles annually.  He employs a light weight 390 gm bottle which virtually does away with breakage.  With a focus on logistics, Bernard performs simultaneous collection and delivery weekly.  Grafé Lecocq also performs élevage (aging wine in oak casks), and has offerings of mainly French wine including storage.

Please remember, Mother Earth is offering a lovely and bountiful environment for us.  Let’s be kind to her.

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