COP26 is well underway in Glasgow, bringing 197 countries together to present their updated plans to act against carbon emissions, and the wine industry has its own, albeit relatively small, part to play.
Wine itself creates relatively low carbon emissions but even so the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) exists. It was founded three years ago by Katie Jackson and Miguel A. Torres, two visionary, committed winemakers with global issues close to their hearts and fundamental to their businesses. Their wineries, Jackson Family Wines and Familia Torres, had long felt a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate other environmental impacts, from the vineyard to the winemaking to the bottle.
They created a collaboration of environmentally aware wine producers committed to increasing their own sustainability by utilising a science-based approach across the industry. They welcomed 12 new wineries in 2021 alone and it is growing fast because “for these wineries, working towards a climate-positive wine sector isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also critical to preserving the future of their multigenerational businesses in the face of accelerating, catastrophic climate impacts” says Julien Gervreau, VP of sustainability at Jackson Family Wines.
The last decade has been the hottest on record and, though that may be fantastic for certain wine regions like the UK right now, many wineries are now at risk from unpredictable weather patterns and “natural” disasters. Josep-Maria Ribas, climate change director at Familia Torres and board member of IWCA says “I have the impression that now with the abnormal and extreme rain and drought patterns, with many more hurricanes than before, glaciers disappearing, fires in the Amazon, in California, in Australia… finally people start to realise that something is going on. It is clear there is a limit to what our planet can handle, and that action is needed on all levels, in all sectors, in all parts of the world.”
IWCA are part of the United Nation’s Race To Zero campaign to rally global support from industry and world leaders to create a zero-carbon way of working with the aim of also generating jobs and building an inclusive, sustainable and environmentally-enhancing way of life. One of the original founders of IWCA, Miguel A. Torres says “It is clear that no one can afford a “stand by and watch” attitude towards climate change anymore; what we have is a climate crisis. It is crucial that action is taken on all levels, in all sectors, in all parts of the world so that together we can put a stop to this madness that will make our earth almost uninhabitable at the end of this century.”
Ribas seconds that the wine industry needs to streamline and standardize the greenhouse gas emissions accountability from the farm to the final consumer. “This will make it easier and more effective to work on reducing emissions and wineries can then focus more on those emissions that are difficult to reduce like packaging and logistics. Developing a standardized methodology to account for annual GHG emissions, was one of IWCA’s founding objectives. During the development process we also realized how complex and costly GHG emissions measurements can be, particularly for small wineries. To help reduce this barrier, IWCA developed its own GHG calculator and the plan is to implement regional updates to the tool and make it more widely accessible. I am convinced this will help to recruit more wineries for IWCA and thus for the Race to Zero”.
“We’ve always held the belief that you can’t change what you don’t measure, and this calculator is a great tool that will help our members to better understand their impact and move towards a climate positive future. Our environmental stewardship and climate action initiatives here at Jackson Family Wines are guided by global urgency to accelerate the implementation of innovative solutions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Innovation is integral to taking us into the future – and it will provide critical solutions; it’s a big part of what drives our sustainable initiatives. That is why we launched our recent Rooted for Good initiative, which has a focus on cutting our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and becoming climate positive by 2050 without the purchase of offsets” explains Gervreau.
Everyone “can make a difference by changing our lifestyle: however small these changes may seem, we can all contribute by for example, using less air conditioning or heating, by switching to LED bulbs, switching to solar energy and by changing to electric cars. We can also make a difference by choosing products from companies who are serious about reducing emissions and who’s sustainability programs are rigorous, science-based and certified by a 3rd party” adds Ribas.
When it comes to buying wine “the easiest way that consumers can become aware and make a difference is supporting the wineries that have made a commitment to the environment through their sustainability and climate action initiatives” says Gerveau.
Though different countries and regions have different sustainability logos, which can make that tricky to spot, consumers can learn more about the various sustainable winemaking and vineyard practices that are helping to make a difference and positive impact on the environment. Gerveau tells me that “as part of Jackson Family Wines’ Rooted for Good initiative, we launched a special Masterclass Series to educate the public about our efforts. The series provides a lot of great insight and details on these efforts, not just from us, but also from some incredible guest panelists including leading scientists, visionaries, and other experts. You can also follow us on our various social media profiles where we are providing updates on our efforts, educational posts on the work we’re doing, and other fun information. It’s a great way to stay informed.”
If you are headed to the shops and want to make a difference and drink more sustainably here are some of the best environmentally-friendly bottles around:
Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc – £11.49 Waitrose
A member of IWCA and the first first winery in the world and only winery in New Zealand to be certified Toitū carbonzero. Making huge strides for sustainability and working with their environment this is a step up on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Elegant, smoky lemongrass, subtle ripe fruit and a clear, crisp minerality.
Familia Torres Mas La Plana 2016 – £49 Waitroise
From one of the IWCA founding families this Cabernet Sauvignon is only made from the very best parcels of fruit. A premium wine with intense, rich bramble and a lift of light vanilla spice. Perfect or your meat dishes.
Champagne Drappier Brut Nature Zero Dosage – £49.99 Selfridges
This family-owned champagne house is Centuries old but with a modern outlook. Certified organic and carbon-neutral this Pinot Noir champagne is Brut Nature, meaning zero dosage. Not only good for those calorie counting but every sip is crisp and fresh with beautiful notes of crunchy red apples and lightly toasted brioche.
La Crema Pinot Noir 2018 – £29 Davy’s Wine Merchants
Opened to murmurs of pleasure around the table this Pinot Noir has it all. Silky smooth notes of dried rose hips, balanced fruit and cedar spice. Created using a blend of Burgundian and Californian techniques this comes from Jackson Family Wines, a founder of IWCA.
Domaine Bousquet Organic Malbec 2020 – £11.50 Able & Cole
A wine producer on a mission. A founding member of the Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR), created to fight climate change with a mission to be Carbon Neutral by 2025 this is one the lighter side with smooth tannin and plenty of red and dark fruits and a pinch of spice. A pleasing mid-week wine for enjoyable quaffing.