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10.23.2006

Measuring a Wine's Cost a Different Way

I'm a bit behind on my reading of wine news, but as I was catching up this evening I stumbled across this nice article reporting on the environmental impact of wine production. Of course, like all industries, it's impossible to imagine wine production to be a zero-impact or even low-impact business when it comes to the environment. Here in California we've heard more than once about the detrimental effects that large scale wine production can have.

But what about smaller productions, we might say to ourselves? A mom and pop winery, maybe in the Old World -- they can't pollute that much, can they?

That was precisely the question that a group of researchers from the University of Palermo and a cooperative winegrower named Saverio Lo Leggio decided to answer. Lo Leggio owns and operates a Sicilian winery named Milazzo, which produces about eight thousand cases of wine each year. In the interest of science, and with a good conscience, Lo Leggio allowed researchers to track and measure every aspect of his wine production for two years in an attempt to quantify exactly how much waste, pollution, and other environmental effects were created by his small operation.

The results were somewhat surprising. Each year, his operations generated more than 25,000 pounds of plastic waste, 12,500 pounds of paper waste, tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater, and more than three thousands pounds of sulfur dioxide gas, among many other byproducts.

That's a lot of waste, and he didn't even have hundreds of diesel burning helicopters flying around to keep his grapes from getting damaged by frost.

Lo Leggio has already been able to take many measures to drastically reduce these numbers now that he knows they exist, and is working to wipe some of them off the map, through wastewater reclamation, and more.

It's heartening to see studies like this and winemakers willing to explore the possibilities for lessening their impact on the environment. Of course, winemaking is pretty innocuous compared to say, manufacturing computer chips, but every little bit counts. And of course, it makes for good PR.

Read the full story.

Comments (9)

Alfonso wrote:
10.24.06 at 4:23 AM

Great link! We should be looking in that direction, rather than worrying about what to do to make wine taste more flavorful with oak chips (which probably has an envirnomental impact as well).
-AC

Bertrand wrote:
10.24.06 at 4:25 AM

Hi Alder
I think that all over the world the trend is to use smaller amount of chemicals because better techniques and machines allow it.
On the other hand, one negative side for the ecology is the fact that large areas areas in some wine regions have been turned excessively to monoculture.This is the case in Champagne where such monoculture allows pests and weeds to proliferate and will encourage in return the systematic use of chemicals.

David wrote:
10.24.06 at 7:03 AM

Winemakers with a passion should be concerned about their impact, much as my grandfather would rotate his crops to avoid burning out the land, I think that family producers are a bit more aware of their impact on the future.

Mark Henry wrote:
10.24.06 at 10:02 AM

Most California wineries are already required to reclaim waste water. And 25,000 lbs of plastic waste?! I'm a really small producer (800 cases crushed this year) and I'm trying to figure out where I would use an equivalent amount of plastic, let alone create an equivalent amount of plastic waste. With companies and organizations like Kendall-Jackson and the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission leading the way in biodynamic and sustainable agriculture practices, the California wine industry is probably much lower impact than many other wine regions. Not that there isn't always room for improvement!

Craig Camp wrote:
10.24.06 at 11:04 AM

Good question on all that plastic. I can't imagine what they were using all of that for. The sulfur emissions issue shows how interrelated all of this is as they actually come from the factory that produced the products, not from the winery itself. So who is the real polluter? Sulfur products are used by biodynamic and low impact wineries, but there is no real alternative. Water reclamation is a big issue for us as we are water poor at our site. We are investigating equipment, but so far most solutions seemed designed for a far larger facility than ours and our cost prohibitive for a small winery.

Jack wrote:
10.24.06 at 7:44 PM

Great post, Alder! You certainly touch on a topic that needs a lot more thought and discussion here in wine country.

10.30.06 at 10:46 AM

Great piece on the environmental impacts of the wine industry. We do need to be more aware. Suprisingly enough, there are many regulations that the wineries have to comply with these days, but so many aspects that we never think about, i.e. overall waste generated during the course of a year.

Michelle wrote:
10.30.06 at 10:48 AM

I have to admit, I am a long time reader and first time blogger on the site! Great article Alder, I am glad to see research being talked about regarding environmental and wine making effects with long term goals for our environment.

Yes, there is a lot to look at with viticulture and viniculture and to be certified under the USDA accreditation with the “Made With Organically Grown Grapes” category. The winemaker needs to look at organic grape production, organic winemaking facilities for crush and lowering the sulfites levels that he adds to the wine. In addition, feel that most of the organic wineries I work with are looking at their environmental impact for short term and long term goals. Of course the USDA accreditation does not look at plastics and recycling but most producers are taking the extra steps that are in conjunction with the organic wine production. For example, some of the wineries I represent, work with recycled cardboard for the cases, use water off their land with fresh springs, clean fining no PVPP’s and do not clear cut the natural surroundings for mono crops of vines ( a few of the extra steps I have seen in the organic winemaking field).

By the way, I see more wineries overseas focusing in Sustainability and organics than domestic (although it is catching on in America). Terms to be aware of if you looking for wineries that have a focus with low impact are Organic, Made With organically Grown Grapes (both accredited by the USDA) and Biodynamic.

And a note for the writer Bertrand, there is a wonderful Champagne House called Fleury that produces beautiful champagnes which are Biodynamic and under the accredited USDA Made with Organically Grown Grapes.

Cheers,
Michelle

boyd wrote:
11.03.06 at 11:37 AM

Since K-J and the Lodi-Woodbridge winegrape commission are mentioned in a post above, I feel the need to mention the hippies up at Fetzer have long emphasized economics, environment and equity as the principles that guide their winemaking and business decisions.
Fetzer's parent company was slow to recognize the power that being a good neighbor and a responsible winery could have in the marketplace but, now seem willing to allow the achievements to appear on Fetzer's website.

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