Some gas in my glass? Wine and climate change (1/3)

Some gas in my glass? Wine and climate change (1/3)

Monday June 28th, 2010 0 By Marion

This article is the fisrt of a series of three where I try to analyze the challenge that climate changes represents for the wine industry and the consequences for the wine consumer:

  1. TODAY: How much does the wine industry contribute to climate change?
  2. How to reduce these impacts (reduction)?
  3. What will be the medium and long term effects of climate change on wine production (adaptation)?

1. Wine carbon emissions: where do they come from?

shipping wine

Transport? Not that much…

When it comes to wine carbon emissions, very often people think that transport is the main contributor. Believe it or not, this is wrong. Transport is very often a major problem for fresh food because it needs to be transported quickly. This encourages road and air transport, the two worse means of transport when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions… But the world wine trade mainly relies on maritime transport, which is the means of transport that generates the less carbon emissions. It is slow, but good for the planet! And what’s more many people say that sea shipping improves wine quality (in a sensible quantity however… A wine from an old prestigious vintage that has travelled all around the world before reaching the glass of its final consumer might have lost a lot of its quality through all this transport!).

Packaging? Yes

Packaging is, in most cases, the factor that contributes the most to wine carbon emissions. For the simple reason that producing glass requires a lot of energy. To give you an example, Champagne Veuve Clicquot have done their carbon assessment in 2008. 56% of their carbon emissions are due to packaging.


In the vineyard and in the cellar? Yes

Even if most emissions come from packaging because glass requires a lot of energy to be produced, another important contributor to wine’s greenhouse gas emissions is viticulture and vinification.
Inputs used in the vineyard and in the cellar require a lot of fossile energy to be produced: pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, aromatic yeasts, etc. Fertlizers are the major problem because they require a huge amount of  energy to be produced and when they are in the fields, they also release some nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that has a global warming potential more than 300 fold higher than carbon dioxide.
All the machines used in the vineyard and in the cellar like tractors, harvesting machines, presses, pumps, etc. use either fuel or electricity. These are afactors that also contribute in the end to wine’s carbon emissions.

Coming next: What can be done to reduce these emissions?