Image Courtesy of Erica Nonni / Ferrari Trento, Getty Images
As the effects of climate change become an increasingly clear and present danger in our day-to-day lives and pose an existential threat to future wine production, many producers and wine lovers are eager to create and support eco-friendly wineries and wines.
However, it’s no small feat. Almost half of a wine’s carbon footprint comes from the production and packaging of wine, according to Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance. But what impact does the actual winery have on the environment? While it might be easy to overlook, a winery’s construction and day-to-day operations are important factors in how “green” a wine actually is.
Here, we share ways winemakers are taking on the challenge to create greener wines—in the vineyard and in the cellar.
Sourcing Local Eco-Friendly Materials
Building an eco-friendly winery with materials and labor sourced from afar defeats the spirit of the exercise, says Christophe Landry. He sourced as much as he could locally when constructing his winery, Chateau des Graviers, at Clos Dufourg in Bordeaux. According to the International Energy Agency, construction is responsible for 39% of annual greenhouse gasses globally in 2018. Manufacturing building materials contributed to 11% of that. And since some of those emissions come from transportation, sourcing local materials can also help lower one’s carbon footprint.
“The winery is made in part with 600 bales of straw purchased from a farmer about 25 miles from the winery,” says Landry, explaining the straw is then compressed to make a low-carbon wall-building material. “We also used stones, sand and clay sourced locally. For the wood, we took pieces of oak wood that our barrel maker couldn’t use.” These locally sourced materials also provide ideal insulation, explains Landry.
Chateau des Graviers isn’t the only winery constructed with eco-friendly materials sourced close to home. Champagne Palmer in Bezannes, France, was built with more sustainable materials like tile in lieu of plastic, which is produced from petrol. The operation also only partnered with suppliers 30 miles or closer whenever possible, says Remi Vervier, the winery’s CEO and chief winemaker.
Along with sourcing local materials, Chateau des Graviers utilized a workforce of “22 and 30 local people to help us build the winery, with the number fluctuating depending on the day,” explains Landry, adding that many were students. “We fed them three meals, and if they needed lodging, we also provided that.”
Finding Alternatives to Concrete
Finding green building materials is no easy task and concrete in particular has a major negative environmental impact. The production of concrete is responsible for an estimated 8% or more of global carbon emissions, according to Nature.
To address the issue, Remy Drabkin, founder and winemaker of Remy Wines, and John Mead, founder of Vesuvian Forge, partnered with Bioforcetech in San Francisco and Lafarge Labs in Seattle to create a carbon-neutral concrete dubbed the Drabkin-Mead Formulation.
The carbon-neutral formula substitutes biochar, a substance made from carbonized organic waste (including manure and wood chips), for the non-eco-friendly black pigment and sand commonly found in concrete.
In August, Drabkin and Mead supervised the pouring of the foundation using their Drabkin-Mead concrete for Remy Wines’ new 5,000-square-foot facility in Dayton, Oregon. They are also going to make the formula available to others, in a bid to create greener construction projects across all industries.
“Because of concrete’s broad usage, any efforts to reduce its embodied footprint is beneficial,” says Abena Darden, a senior associate at Thronton Thomasetti, an engineering consulting firm focusing on sustainable construction and building projects around the world. “Reduction efforts can create a ripple effect, and when manufacturers lower the carbon footprint of their concrete, reductions can happen at scale.”