20 November 2007

The Carbon Footprint of Wine

Dr. Vino's Wine Blog recently finished a study on the sustainability of wine. Here are some of his findings:

* Organic farming has lower greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity than conventional farming but I was surprised that the difference wasn’t greater. Clearly there may be other differences in a local ecosystem but the GHG difference was surprisingly small. But on the whole, it was the transportation that played a more significant role from a GHG perspective.
* Regarding the “food miles” debate, we find that distance does matter.
* But not all miles that a bottle travels are the same. Efficiencies in transportation make container ships better than trucks, which in turn are better than planes.
* Shipping premium wine, bottled at the winery, around the world mostly involves shipping glass with some wine in it. In this regard, drinking wine from a magnum is the more carbon-friendly choice since the glass-to-wine ratio is less. Half-bottles, by contrast, worsen the ratio.
* Shipping wine in bulk from the source and bottling closer to the point of consumption lowers carbon intensity.
* Light packaging material such as Tetra-Pak or bag-in-a-box has much less carbon intensity.
* Using oak chips is a more carbon friendly alternative than oak barrels, particularly those that are shipped assembled and empty around the world
* There’s a “green line” that runs down the middle of Ohio. For points to the West of that line, it is more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked from California. To the East of that line, it’s more efficient to consume the same sized bottle of wine from Bordeaux, which has had benefited from the efficiencies of container shipping, followed by a shorter truck trip. In the event that a carbon tax were ever imposed, it would thus have a decidedly un-nationalistic impact.

I know, this is a beer blog, but all this means is that you should support your local brewery--or, whoever's the closest to you. And you should buy kegs.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 07:37

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