Sustainability and sustainable wine production. It might seem like a straightforward concept, but what does it actually mean? It is something becoming more and more relevant, especially throughout the food and beverage industry. It is a keyword, influencing both the wine market and its consumers; a concept that is growing in value day by day.
The “sustainability” theme officially appeared for the first time in 1972, during the very first UN conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference). However, it was not until 1987, that the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development published a report that not only aimed at clarifying the concept itself, but the report was also aimed at instituting a common goal – one that can still be defined as contemporary: “sustainability is the need to grow and develop in a way that can satisfy the current generation without withholding the same possibility for future generations.” (WCED, Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, 1987).
Today, it is in fact undeniable that terms such “Sustainable”, “Environmentally-friendly” or “organic” can awaken an important awareness in the eyes of the consumer. However, it is a mistake to use these terms as synonyms (B. Campbell, H. Khachatryan, B. K. Behe, J. H. Dennis, 2015, Consumer Perceptions of Eco-friendly and Sustainable Terms). The word “sustainability” is often erroneously used to describe products that are environmentally friendly, completely overlooking its different facets, such as the social, cultural and economic sphere.
With respect to this particular point, researchers Schäufele and Hamm (2017) underline how employing sustainable characteristics in wine production could be a winning strategy, one that would make all the difference, if appropriately paired with the gradual education of consumers. It could also be convenient economically speaking and here’s why: new vine varieties, obtained by interspecific crossings, do not require specific pesticide treatments because they are proven to be more resistant to epidemics and fungi, therefore, this allows for a significant cut-back on production costs and the usage of chemical agents.
However, these new generation vines are still in need of proper regulation since it is crucial to protect the existing species from risk. Such risks include the reduction in biodiversity, the risk of there being an outbreak of new diseases or the risk of customer backlash, having been exposed to changes too quickly to adjust. It is also essential to refrain from underestimating the impact that all of this could have on the wine market, because all of the new varieties would have to compete with the traditional, more traditional options – but this would in turn and would unintentionally highlight the sometimes-extreme use of pesticides in the traditional vines.
Therefore, implementing further changes within the industry requires a certain amount of flexibility on behalf of producers, who may be focusing more on the risks involved rather than the opportunities. It is however impossible to deny how fast the food and beverage world is shifting toward a more sustainable reality; society is now starting to upgrade its standards, shifting its evaluation methods, focusing more in terms of “quality”.
With regards to ecology and environmental sustainability, it is likely that over time, treatment processes will change, reducing the usage of additives and coadjutants, lowering intensive energy oenological practices. A special focus will also be needed for product packaging: bottles are in fact one of the major carbon emission causing factors in the whole wine production process.
To make sure that this road is taken in a uniform and sustainable way, it is important to begin a process of acceptance, a notion that must primarily come from producers and experts in this area. Their responsibility will entail the broadcasting of these changes to the public in a positive and gradual way, through inclusive new generational tools such as virtual reality and the digital world.
5StarWines is aware of the struggles that might arise during the production processes of sustainable wine. This is one of the reasons behind its creation of “Wine Without Walls”, part of 5StarWines – The Book, a section dedicated to the promotion of producers who have devoted themselves to creating biodynamic, organic and reduced sulfite content wine on an international scale.
Sustainability is the main topic for the 2019 edition of wine2wine, being held on November 25th and 26th in Verona, Italy. This is an international forum that is now in its 6th edition. It will host an impressive number of speakers such as Bruce Sanderson, senior editor for Wine Spectator; Sonal Holland MW, India’s only Master of Wine and Gaia Gaja, of Gaja Estates, co-owner and International Brand Ambassador – these are just to name a few. They, among many others, will be discussing the topic of sustainability in all of its forms. Participants will be given the opportunity to network and become involved in practical labs, as well as take part in other activities, all aimed at shaping the future of the wine sector into a sustainable one.
So, will we see you there?
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