Drink to the Future with These Eco-Minded Producers

Grapes and greenery / Getty
Grapes and greenery / Getty

Each year for Earth Day, we try to feature a number of bottle selections from winemakers, breweries and spirits producers that put the environment at the forefront of their corporate philosophy. This year, our editors decided to really get their hands dirty and dig deeper into some of the the innovations in conservation that have been taking place in the beverage industry.

Whether an initiative in South Africa that rewards winemakers for preserving land rather than planting on it, a scientist who has discovered the secret to producing clean biofuel from the byproducts of Scotch whisky distilling, and even a brewery making edible six-pack rings, see how the beverage industry is looking after its future.

BWI Champions from South Africa

The majority of South African wines are produced within the Cape Floral Kingdom, which spans the western and southern coastlines of the country. The unique biodiversity that thrives there is home to over 9,500 different plant species, 70 percent of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It needs to be respected and protected, and many winemakers have committed to the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature’s Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) in order to accomplish that through land preservation, sustainable farming practices and respectful use of their country’s unique natural assets.

Those that go above and beyond, with long-term commitments and significant amounts of their land committed to conservation as opposed to grape growing, are recognized and awarded with Champion status. Wines from Champion producers are often easy to identify. The distinguished BWI Champion logo and label, adorned with a golden sugarbird on a pink protea, graces each wine bottle. You can also check out their Sustainable Wine Pocket Guide for more information about the program and producers to look for. —Lauren Buzzeo, Tasting Director/Senior Editor

Saltwater Brewery's edible six-pack holder / Photo courtesy Saltwater Brewery
Saltwater Brewery’s edible six-pack holder / Photo courtesy Saltwater Brewery

Saltwater Brewery’s Edible Six-Pack Rings

Given a Compassionate Business Award by PETA and Gold Medals in Environmental PR and Innovation by The Cannes Lions, Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida is revolutionizing the way we secure six-packs. They trashed the plastic for Edible Six Pack Rings, which are literally a future snack pack for land and sea animals. Check out the video. —Angela Kahn, Tasting Coordinator

Chateau Maris 2013 Le Carignan de Maris (Coteaux de Peyriac)

Made from certified organic grapes, this Carignan from Chateau Maris is an easy-drinking delight. Fresh and spicy, with a little bit of an earthy vibe, it’s a red you can enjoy with a slight chill on it. Even better? The winery is made from hemp bricks that allow the building to keep a steady temperature and humidity without the use of electric cooling or heating. —Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor

Planet of the Grapes: Eco-Friendly Drinking

Tullibardine Distillery and Celtic Renewables

As much as I want to believe there’s a “green” way to distill whiskey, I’ve had to accept the science and admit: compared to other alcoholic beverages, whiskey production is just not very eco-friendly. This is especially true for Scotch, or any whiskey produced with pot stills which, while leading to an arguably more authentic (and delicious) product, are antiquated and terribly energy inefficient.

Dr. Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables / Photo courtesy Celtic Renewables
Dr. Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables / Photo courtesy Celtic Renewables

However, that’s not stopping Dr. Martin Tangney, a microbiologist and director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, from trying to make lemonade out of lemons—or biofuel from Scotch whisky waste, to be specific. He founded Celtic Renewables in 2012, which partnered with the Tullibardine Scotch distillery that same year with the goal of producing clean biofuel energy from the by-products of whisky distillation.

In 2015, the firm produced its first viable samples of “biobutanol” derived from this waste, and after receiving awards and accolades throughout the industry, were given a $15 million dollar grant from the British government to expand their functioning pilot plant into an industrial scale facility. The end goal? According to Tangney, to eventually expand the project to all whiskey producing countries in the world. —Dylan Garret, Associate Digital Editor 

Maximin Grünhäuser

The first documentation regarding Maximin Grünhäuser dates back to 966 A.D., making it one of the oldest wineries in Germany. Located in the Mosel, it does not use pesticides or herbicides, utilizes sustainable farming practices such as the companion planting of wild herbs and cover crops, and harnesses predominantly organic fertilization practices (an electric cable car system once existed to haul manure up and down the slopes). All of the wines are fermented with wild yeasts, but perhaps more notably, the wood for the winery’s barrels is sourced from the estate’s own forests, negating the negative carbon impact of having oak shipped in. A local cooper then uses the winery’s wood to construct the barrels.

Need a place to start? Try their 2015 Riesling Feinherb. —Christina Jackson, Editorial Intern

Oyster River Winegrowers 2015 Hoboken Station Cider

My favorite stop at a recent Indie Winery portfolio tasting was Oyster River Winegrowers, located in Maine. I was blown away by their Hoboken Station Cider. It brought the fruit. It brought the funk. Best of all, it did both without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. —Carrie Dykes, Tasting Coordinator

Steam Whistle Brewing

Photo courtesy Steam Whistle
Photo courtesy Steam Whistle

Steam Whistle, a Canadian brewery that offers only one beer which it dedicates itself to making as well as it can, also runs a facility that’s as green as their signature beer’s bottle. Everything from the product to the brewing facility was created with the environment in mind. The beer contains only four ingredients, all of which are natural and GMO-free. Spent grain is sent as feed to nearby farms and beer is transported by a fleet of biodiesel-fueled trucks. Every element of the packaging line is recycled, right on down to the shrink wrap, and the brewing facility itself runs on energy efficient lighting and 100% renewable energy to ensure minimal impact on the environment. —Kristen Richard, Digital Editorial Intern

Published on April 21, 2017
Topics: Eco-Friendly