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Sustainabilty and buying choices

One can only support the efforts described in the Sustainability Plan and the Annual Report article made interesting reading. There’s a little elephant in the room, though: the environmental impact of hauling wine across the world. I’ve made a decision to restrict my buying to European wines. There’s enough choice from there anyway!

Perhaps the Society will eventually work out an index of environmental impact and indicate this by each wine on offer. Members are free to choose their wines but perhaps a little nudge in the right direction?


I remember reading an article (that I think someone posted on this forum) that european wines may actually have a bigger carbon footprint per bottle because they are usually trucked over with loads limited by truck capacity, so lots of journeys needed, whereas wines shipped by boat from other countries have a lower footprint per bottle as they are transported in much larger loads.

Hopefully someone with a better ability to find things on the forum will be along to post the link.

I agree an index would be a very helpful feature


Similarly confirmed drinker of European wines, although we do make an exception for Californian wines having spent a very happy year living in LA in our younger days.

One aspect I find challenging when reading this community is my decision to stick to ordering wine 12+ bottles at a time, and not engaging with the recently introduced more flexible delivery options. We have so many delivery vans up and down our London street all day long - does not feel very sustainable in itself.

So many descriptions where I think “I would love to try that” but simply do not fit with my infrequent ordering habits (either long OOS or I cannot find the thread). I could start to maintain a wish list but that is a discipline I just have not developed.


That might well have been my post.

I’ve lost the reference for my information, but moving wine across the world in a container ship has little environmental impact per bottle-mile compared with road freight, so it is often the transport to and from the ports that is most significant, which may be more or less than road freight across Europe.

Shipping in bulk would be advantageous of course.

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I think it was @Leah who contributed a fair amount of detail regarding bulk shipping of wine in ICU’s and their much larger cousins. To be then bottled (I think) somewhere up near Barnard Castle?

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This is what triggered my thoughts: Global warming: drinking Old World wines generates four times less CO2 |

Perhaps mostly by rail from source, bottled by Wine Society?

OK, fair enough. Less CO2 is used getting wine here from the continent. But the difference is nowhere near proportional to the distance travelled.

I wonder how things stack up if you also consider other polluting effects of lorry vs ship?

And I’m sure you’re right that moving European in bulk by rail would be a big improvement over bottled wine and lorry. And whoever bottles it (if done at all) it should be done close to where it is consumed. Barge and ship from the continent would be even better than rail!

Yes, this was the thread where I referenced Lanchester’s Greencroft Bottling plant who actively give back to the national grid and are a net zero carbon company.


I haven’t read the full data yet - and as with all data I suspect it depends how widespread, detailed and objective the thrust of the data collection is! - but surely if you compared like-for-like (ie a bottle of wine coming from Australia) that it would compare less favourably with a bottle of wine coming from say, The Loire? How does the wine reach the port in Australia (a vast country!), and with it’s onward journey from a port in Britain etc? And has the wider environmental impact been taken into account, say in the actual production of the wine?

I remain healthily skeptical - and I will add that these discussions, much like Brexit become mired in people ‘picking sides’ - that Carbon Neutral as an aim is just a distraction, a way-point on the terrible road of discovery unfolding before us as to just how much damage has already been done.

Surely the aim has to be to produce no carbon, not to pretend that doing something else can somehow undo the damage we’ve already done? And on that, I suspect that the ultimate answer will be that neither wine from Australia, nor The Loire is ultimately sustainable in the long run unless we drastically change the volume of carbon (and other climate-destroying chemicals and processes) that we produce in any process.

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The economic answer is to say that all the costs of production/transport/marketing/storing, etc., should be properly priced, where needed by taxing to compensate for external costs and expected shortages (and of course by pricing inputs like water correctly); then both the producer and the consumer can make informed choices of what/where to produce. In the absence of this it is impossible for even an informed consumer to do more than try to avoid obvious nonsenses (unusually heavy bottles, excess packing, etc.) and vote for those who seem likely to encourage sensible taxation and regulation, including encouraging international approaches to this.


Interesting related note: Château de Berne Provence Rosé Wine type - Waitrose Cellar is being advertised on pretty much every bus stop and billboard around my area at the moment (shocked, I say! shocked!). Its USP being that it has a squared bottle so is more eco friendly.

Most important thing to me is the quality of the wine.

I don’t like bulk shipped wines, I want wines that left the winery in bottles the way the winemaker intended. Not doctored and adjusted at a UK bottling plant.

I buy a lot of South African wine: bulk shipping and bottling in the UK takes many desperately needed jobs from locals.

Is it that you don’t like bulk shipped wines, or you don’t like the quality level of wines that tend to be the ones that are bulk shipped?

I generally tend to drink wine that’s been bottled in place (and often aged, which is another thing). I’d be interested to see what “quality” (as opposed to “bulk”) wine that’s been bulk shipped is like.

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One way to increase information for the consumer: the strawberries bought today from a local shop had a QR code which takes you directly (well, maybe) to the producer, so in theory I can ask Jan Adams how he produces them…

I apologise if I missed a post above addressing this but miles travelled (by whatever mode of transport) is insufficient to address this issue from a sustainably/environmental perspective without a proper life cycle analysis. What if a producer from Australia has far better growing conditions vs an old world production area and thus needs far less fertiliser? What about the environmental cost of water in different places? And if the nature of the source of the energy varies (hydro vs coal say?). All I’m really trying to say is don’t accept simple answers to complex questions.


The article you link to starts by saying that you should be concentrating on the carbon cost of transport because packaging is recycling, ignoring the much higher carbon cost of recycling glass (reuse would obviously be different, but I’m not aware of any large scale wine bottle reuse schemes).

Clearly everything else being equal there is a cost to moving things further, and I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage your buying approach, but I have trouble taking seriously anything that begins with so specious an argument.

I’m sure all the facts are correct, but I also found it somewhat troubling being on the website of a specialist Italian wine importer…

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You are right to be suspicious. Here are some other figures for CO2 emissions from different modes of freight transport:
Plug in those numbers for very large container ships and trucks into the calculations, and you see very different results.

The source for the image is the International Chamber of Shipping, so obviously unbiased :wink:.

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Yes and yes.

Me too.

I think the lack of bulk shipped quality wine says it all. Why did wineries start to bottle their own wine, rather than sell it in barrel? So they could control quality.


Historically true. Not sure it’s quite so relevant now when we have sterile hectolitre IBC’s (and their larger cousins) to replace wooden casks.

I can understand vineyards in the £50/bottle & upwards market, bottling at source. But for the sub £20 bottle, it kind of makes more sense to ship in bulk container? especially if we are talking long sea journeys (Australasia, S Africa, S America). That’s a long way to ship a glass bottle.