At WEINME we just had a monthly box on the subject of “wanderlust” containing wines from Argentina, Chile and South Africa. When we had the idea for the topic, the question for us was whether wines from so far away are acceptable for us from a climatic point of view. So we have researched the issue of the carbon footprint of wines. Here we want to share what we have learned.
First, let’s make some comparisons with other common foods to see how much our joy in wine is a climate sin:
A bottle of German wine from Rheinhessen has an average of 0.675 kg of CO2 (source ifeu). In an extreme scenario, this can go up to 4.5 kg of CO2 if a Napa Valley wine is sent to New York by plane (source AAWE). For comparison, a kilogram of apples: If they come from New Zealand, you add 0.8 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere (source ifeu) and thus more than a bottle of Riesling from Rheinhessen. For German apples this is only 0.3. In a liter glass, strained tomatoes come at 1.9, more than the much scolded avocado, which with an average of 0.6 per kg is more comparable to our wine from Rheinhessen. Two 200g organic steaks for your dinner beat every bottle of wine that could be opened with a massive 8.68 kg of CO2.
The production of wine therefore produces relevant greenhouse gases, as is the case with all other foods. That is why you can continue to enjoy wine without feeling like a climate destroyer. But let’s take a closer look at which factors have a major influence here. Because the development of greenhouse gases in wine production has a wide range, as our example above shows.
Main factors affecting the carbon footprint of wine
In general, greenhouse gases are created in wine production wherever machines, heaters etc. are used that consume energy and produce exhaust gases in the process. The two biggest factors by far, however, are packaging and distribution.
In the example of the wine from Rheinhessen, the packaging accounts for 48% of the total greenhouse gases produced (source ifeu). That’s because we like heavy, beautiful glass bottles and only use them once. Producing glass requires a lot of heat and therefore produces a lot of CO2. The weight of the glass bottle compared to the amount it contains also has a very negative impact on the climate balance, because it plays a very important role in the development of greenhouse gases in logistics. Other containers such as Tetra Paks and cans are lighter, but also have other disadvantages for mother earth. Glass bottles are also best suited for longer storage of wines. However, using glass bottles several times could reduce greenhouse gases by more than ¾.. There is also no need for thick bottles to store the wine. These only serve to give us consumers an impression of value. They do not contribute to the quality at all.
The second big issue is distribution. In addition to the length of its path, the means by which it is taken are decisive here. A wine that is drunk in New York and comes from Bordeaux emits only 69% of the greenhouse gases in comparison to a wine from Napa in California (source AAWE). This amazing difference is due to the fact that wine per bottle that is shipped in large quantities on the ship does not have very high emissions per kilometer, while trucks are less ideal. Wine shipped by plane is by far the least climate-friendly, which is hardly surprising.
Is the fermentation of wine a climate killer?
Another area in which Co2 is created in wine production is during fermentation. As with any alcoholic fermentation process, yeast converts sugar into alcohol and CO2. This CO2 usually escapes directly. However, since it is also CO2 that was previously absorbed from the air by the vines, the basic process of wine production is still CO2 negative. This means that less CO2 is emitted during fermentation than was previously bound. If you look at the other factors discussed, it is also much less influential on the overall carbon footprint of the bottle of wine on our table. Namely less than 0.1 kg of CO2. Nevertheless, there are some wineries that are experimenting with capturing the escaping gas and converting it, for example, into components that are used for colors (source: The Drinks Business). That would be a great way to have a positive impact on the climate!
What can you do yourself to keep the CO2 footprint of your wines low?
As consumers, we can begin to see heavy bottles not as a sign of high quality but as unnecessarily harmful to the climate. Since these bottles are also more expensive, no winery will use them anymore if their customers don’t want them to.
In addition, you shouldn’t drive you car to buy a few bottles of wine. For example, 5 kilometers by car have a significantly higher climate footprint than a local bottle of wine overall when delivered to you! So if you don’t get wine by bike or on foot, it’s more climate-friendly to buy it online.
But does it make sense to only buy local wines? This is certainly a personal question, as they do in fact produce less CO2 due to the shorter distribution routes. However, we have seen that large loads on ships by no means add much more to the CO2 result. Therefore we have decided to introduce you to wines from South America and South Africa.
The distances within Europe are not as far as from California to New York. And if you look at other foods in comparison to wine, we consider this to be entirely justifiable from a climate point of view. However, we would not send wine by plane for sure!
It is important to be aware of the climate impact
Almost all food and activities today emit greenhouse gases. We should all think about where we can directly and simply positively contribute our part. And above all, make us aware of the impact our activities have.
At WEINME, for example, we have decided not to pack flyers and print advertising in our boxes. Because these usually only produce rubbish and increase the weight on delivery. We therefore send all materials such as our wine descriptions digitally. So they are always available as a nice side effect. We also ship in recycled cardboard boxes. All small changes that add up the more we go on step by step.