There is no doubt that we are living in changing times. We are increasingly aware of our actions' impact on the planet and the people who live on it, perhaps more at an industrial level than individually. Yet, we demonize the big companies and put our hopes in the small producers with new initiatives.
But does it have to be like that? The wine industry is one of the most fragmented in the world, with thousands of wineries. In the US alone, there are more than 11,000, and in France, more than 27,000. Although there are indeed giants such as Treasury Wines, Pernod Ricard, or Gallo, the reality is that the vast majority of wineries are much more modest, and there are thousands of small or even micro-producers.
According to the United Nations; sustainability is "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
It’s a broad definition that has infinite interpretations and consequences. When we talk about sustainability in the world of wine, it’s understood as causing the minimum impact on the environment while guaranteeing work on the vine as a decent livelihood for farmers.
The growing tendency is that we live in an incredibly stressful world, and we have to take things more slowly. This has also reached the world of wine.
Thus, many inmates passionate about this world have decided to undertake organic viticulture, natural wines, or biodynamic viticulture projects. People who were not necessarily dedicated to the world of wine before have understood that you can enjoy good wine (and a good life, by the way), going back to the origins and creating quality products with care. These types of farms are, almost by definition, relatively small due to the intensive care required, the strict controls, and the particular affection with which they dedicate themselves to the project.
Likewise, they are hard and labor-intensive projects and, therefore, economically inefficient. This is also transferred to the price of the final product. The wines from these wineries are vintage, almost always limited edition, and very interesting to follow year after year since they usually have minimal intervention from the winemaker. Therefore, the expression of the grape and the terroir varies each year slightly.
We tend to think that the big wine companies are exploitative monsters that only think about money and don't care about the environment, but it's not like that at all.
Today, any winery that does not have a clear sustainability agenda and communicates it effectively is doomed to disappear. Not only because consumers will kick them out of the market, but because governments demand it. Of course, the big producers also invest in organic and biodynamic wine projects. But being realistic, it should be explained that although it is a growing trend, the offer of this type of wine is limited, since the climatic conditions that must be met in order to maintain a vineyard without chemicals (hours of sun and heat, relatively low humidity ), are very peculiar, and occur in just a few places in the world.
Of course, this can be counteracted to a certain extent with careful maintenance and pruning of the vines. Still, as already mentioned, these are very manual and expensive procedures, more feasible for small producers. There are other ways to contribute to sustainability that big wineries can do on a large scale and are actually implementing.
For example, optimizing the water cycle by using recycled wastewater to irrigate the vines, maximizing the energy obtained through solar panels, utilizing the waste from winemaking (the skins, skins, etc.) as fuel for biogas plants.
The reality is that all wineries, large and small, are chipping in to help leave a better world than the one they found without diminishing the quality of the final product. In the end, we all want to enjoy good wine without having to break the bank every time, or impact the environment in a negative way.
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