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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.

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