Before you reach for that corkscrew, ask yourself, what’s the carbon footprint of the bottle of wine you’re about to open?
In the vast world of climate science, relatively little attention has been paid to the wine industry’s carbon footprint, mostly because it pales in comparison to that of others.
Spanish company Grupo ARCE set out to get an idea of exactly what the impact was and where it came from. Tracking a Verdejo from production to consumption, the group found that the average bottle of wine releases about 1.28 kilograms of carbon into the atmosphere over its lifetime.
Can you determine the carbon footprint of your wine? The short answer: Sort of.
The type of research that Grupo ARCE conducted requires data that the average consumer just doesn’t have. But there are clues on the label for anyone who hopes to cut down their impact. Here are some things to consider.
Where’s this wine from?
Transportation is where wine makes its greatest carbon imprint. Emissions from air shipments are the worst, followed by trucking; container ships have the least impact.
If you live east of the Mississippi River, wines from Europe often have a smaller carbon footprint than those driven or flown in from the West Coast. This is also a good excuse to check out what’s being produced locally.
How was the wine made?
The use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture has a carbon impact; wines that are labeled organic, biodynamic or both don’t use these, relying instead on natural fertilizers.
Other factors to think about include whether the grapes were hand-harvested, which results in less emissions and erosion than machine picking, and whether the wines were produced in a facility that uses solar energy or wind power.
Many wines will include this information on the label, but this might be an area where you want to do a little homework.
What is it packaged in?
The advancement in bag-in-box technology means that a three-liter box of wine has a smaller carbon footprint than a bottle, when you break it down per glass.
But if you’re determined to pick up a bottle of wine, do just that: Pick it up, and feel how heavy it is. Some wineries are using lighter-weight glass, which means less fuel is needed to transport bottles.