Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Long Way For A Drink

How far would you go for a good bottle of wine? Even if you buy wine from across the street the chances are that the bottle and contents have had a long journey to your door.

English wine, although getting more common, isn't a mainstream product just yet. The English wines I've tried are delicious but it's not always easy to find them in your local supermarket. Wine from some of our nearest neighbours, France, Spain and Germany, are common in our shops though as well as bottles from further a field such as Australia, Chile and South Africa.

If we're trying to live more sustainable lives isn't it a contradiction to only buy local food but to buy wine from the other side of the planet? Following this line of thought I tend to automatically buy wines from France and Spain, ruling out wines from other countries even if they're Faritrade (more on that later). I always thought this must be better for the environment but after looking into it a bit more I'm not so sure. After reading an article on the carbon footprint of wines, here, I realised, as with food, it matters much more how the wine travels to my glass not always from where.

Only around 2% of the environmental impact of food comes from it's transportation but this figure could be as high as 34% for wine. A new initiative is to bulk ship wines and then bottle at the location of sale. For countries such as Australia this could reduce the carbon emissions of wine transport by 40%. This is great for large brands but impractical for small producers. 

Once bottled it's also important to look at how the wine is transported. It's been calculated that a bottle of wine from Chile, shipped by sea container from Valparaiso to Felixstowe and then by road to Bristol uses about 318g of CO2. This is hard to comprehend but when I read that the average car uses 170g CO2 per kilometre it puts it into perspective. Wine from Spain and France may be shipped but may also be brought by truck which will have a higher carbon footprint. The real problem for most buyers who are trying to be ethical is there's no way of knowing exactly how the wine got to this country. I don't know if anything is being done about this at the moment but I'll definitely look at wines from further away more closely now as I can pretty much guarantee they'll have been shipped in.

Fairtrade was mentioned earlier. I'm almost addicted to the Faritrade logo, and if I see it on a product I automatically want to buy it, even if it's something I don't need. You often see the logo on wine from countries outside Europe such as Chile or Argentina or South Africa. Now I've stopped ruling these wines out I'll definitely pick more Fairtrade bottles up in the shops. The reason Fairtrade isn't used in all countries is because it's mainly a way of helping growers in developing countries. In Europe we already have minimum wage and employment laws to protect workers but other places don't have the same protection. As with all Fairtrade products the farms must pursue sustainable growing techniques, minimise use of chemicals, pay a fair wage and help support local community and social development.

So to round up the past few wine filled days: I'll definitely stick to picking wines which use corks (to help the wildlife I talked about yesterday) but I'll look more at wines from countries further away than Europe as they might not have higher travel emissions. If I do buy wine from developing countries I'll always buy Fairtrade so I know that my money goes to the farmers and also supports sustainable development.

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