The three R’s in wine are not “Rose, Riesling, and Rioja”. Rather, I have been interested in how the traditional three “R’s” of the environmental movement: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, are being addressed by the wine industry. For years, winemakers have been touting sustainability initiatives in their vineyards and fields, and through energy-saving efforts in their facilities. But now consumers want more, especially as they begin to understand how much of wine’s carbon footprint stems from packaging and shipping. When it comes to wine’s impact on the environment, glass bottles contribute 29 percent to its total impact, according to a 2011 carbon footprint assessment of the California wine industry commissioned by the Wine Institute and conducted by sustainability consultant PE International.
<p> A similar assessment in Oregon, conducted by the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, found packaging contributes 23 percent to a wine’s carbon footprint. In comparison, planting and growing grapes contributes 24 percent, and transporting the bottled wine to retailers accounts for 13 percent.</p> <p> Many winemakers have switched to at least partially organic and sustainable growing practices in recent decades; some have also moved to reign in wasteful packaging practices. In California, Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyard grows its grapes biodynamically and organically, so it’s no surprise that sustainable packaging is a priority. The winery has always used soy-based inks, eliminated Styrofoam in direct shipments in favor of recycled (and recyclable) pulp inserts, and in 2012, switched away from bottling some wines in 6-bottle cases in favor of 12-bottle cases (because the 12-bottle case uses significantly less than twice the packaging material of the 6-bottle case). In addition to the immediate environmental benefit of producing a lighter bottle, the winery also sends out fewer trucks for delivery (22 pallets can fit in one, versus 19 pallets previously). “We send about 10,000 cases of wine per year to wine club members and for DTC orders that we receive,” says Jason Haas. “Those are all sent via UPS, FedEx, or GSO. Each case weighs between two and 11 pounds less than it would have with the old bottles. That’s a big footprint—and cost—savings.” So are the days finally gone, when heavy bottles are equated with wealth and luxury? “I would say there’s more room in the marketplace for quality wines in lighter-weight bottles, as well as a backlash against some of the heavy ones,” says Tablas Creek’s Haas.</p> <p> He continues: “We thought the heavy bottles we were using were the equivalent of a luxury SUV, signifying solid respectability. But we came to believe they were more like a Hummer—with that same overlay of environmental tone-deafness. Particularly for a winery like us, which works so hard to farm the right way, it felt like the wrong choice.”</p> <p>Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people like the reusability of our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out <a href="http://skolnikwine.com/stainless-steel-wine-barrels/">the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here</a>. </p>