Wines knocked into carbon reduction

20th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, June 20, 2007 (AFP) - At the Vinexpo wine and spirits fair, the world's largest, held in Bordeaux every second year, interest in organic wines and environmentally friendly packaging has reached new heights, driven particularly by demand from the United States and Britain.

BORDEAUX, France, June 20, 2007 (AFP) - At the Vinexpo wine and spirits fair, the world's largest, held in Bordeaux every second year, interest in organic wines and environmentally friendly packaging has reached new heights, driven particularly by demand from the United States and Britain.

"Will you be able to sell wine in the next 20 years if you are not organic," Bordeaux producer, Thibault Despagne, was asked by his San Francisco importer.

Despagne, who officially announced the Despagne Family Vineyards bio-fuel and waste management programme at Vinexpo this week, said he has seen an increased interest in environmental issues from both producers and consumers.

Airlines for example, to which Despagne sells almost 20 per cent of its production, are asking for recycled glass bottles, lighter weights to help reduce their carbon emissions and generally greener wines.

"As a family wine company we are concerned about the way our wines are produced," Despagne said. "We now have a vine nutritionist who works with us, to maximise the health of our vines, and three years ago we were certified as ISO 14001, which gives us rules on how to organise the business more environmentally, helping us to lower water and electricity consumption," he said.

The bio-fuel project itself involved planting 15 hectares (37 acres) of sunflowers last April, which should produce, per hectare, 660 litres (172 gallons) of oil, on which Despagne hopes to run his vineyard tractors and save 15 per cent of his current fuel consumption.

The vineyard is also joining a group of local businesses to maximise its waste management programme.

In America, sales of organic wine have risen significantly -- "by 28 per cent in 2005," said Robert Joseph, founder of Greener Planet Wines with his partner Hugh Ryman. "That's 80 million dollars' (60 million euros') worth of wine. Out of a 21-billion-dollar total, that may not seem a lot, but it is growing."

And it is growing at least enough for Joseph to have sold 15,000 cases of  Greener Planet shiraz-merlot cabernet sauvignon from Languedoc-Roussillon in the United States during Greener Planet's first year of business. The sales estimate for 2007 is between 25 and 40,000 bottles, depending, he said, on the outcome of meetings at Vinexpo this week.

Already, by the end of July the range of organic wines, of which there are now three, will be available in The Netherlands, Canada and Scandinavia. And, said Joseph, "I would be very upset if nothing is in the UK by the end of the year."

Greener Planet wines come in recycled glass bottles, carry non-wood paper labels printed with sustainable ink, and sales have, to date, generated 10,000 dollars of funding for a safe drinking water project in India.

Joseph has yet to tackle the issue of lighter glass to reduce carbon emissions when his wine is being shipped or flown anywhere, but, he says he will be looking at it. "We need to get the organic part right, then we will look at carbon neutral," he said.

"The main thing for now is that we use less chemicals. We want less chemicals going into the soil and into our bodies," said Joseph, who has written a number of books on wine and has been a critic for 20 years. 

But being committed to organics is not as simple as seems, nor is it necessarily seen as environmentally friendly.

Critics of organic food say that taken to its logical conclusion, it will use too much space on the planet, being less intensively grown. Joseph says this is not a problem for wine since there is already too much. "We don't need more space, we need to produce less, but better quality, from what we have."

There is also the issue of copper - the reason why Despagne will never go organic. "The levels of copper you have to use in organic wines leave damaging traces, not only in the soil but in the wine itself," he said. Despagne believes that in 20 years time there will be a scandal about organic wine and copper.

Joseph retorted "that is still not a good enough reason not to go for organic today," he said. "Do what you can, is my thinking."

At the show itself, which has 2,400 exhibitors this year and about 50,000 visitors, the number of French organic wine stands has shot up from 54 in 2005, to 87 this year. From Italy numbers have gone from 15 in 2005, to 21 this year, and from Spain the eight in 2005 has doubled to 17 this year.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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