Does the weight of that wine bottle doesn’t indicate quality?
The recent Climate Summit in Glasgow began with dire warnings of an impending climate catastrophe if world leaders don’t agree on drastic measures to limit carbon emissions and slow the rise in global temperatures. To which a bunch of wine writers replied: “Lighten up!”
Bottles, that is. An open letter rocketed around the admittedly small wine Twitter universe last weekend calling on wineries to abandon heavy bottles to help reduce their carbon footprint. The petition was written by Aleesha Hansel, a British wine writer for Decanter Magazine and several other publications, and co-signed by Jancis Robinson, a well known wine writer who has campaigned against heavy wine bottles for years. In the first three days, it gained more than 300 endorsements by wine writers and producers.
“We are no longer facing climate change, but a climate emergency that is threatening the future of wine as we know it,” Hansel wrote. “The production and transportation of glass bottles makes by far the greatest contribution to wine’s carbon footprint. The industry needs to face this head on and do what it can to reduce this burden.” The petition doesn’t actually ask for much. It calls for wineries to include bottle weight on technical sheets, which are provided to writers, importers and retailers. It also calls for “all involved in wine” to campaign for effective glass recycling, noting that only 62 percent of glass in Britain was recycled in 2018, and the proportion in the United States was “a shameful 25 percent,” citing statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Robinson has been including bottle weight in her reviews on her website for some time. Glass bottles account for 29 percent of wine’s carbon footprint — the single biggest factor — according to a study commissioned in 2011 by the Wine Institute in California. Transport is 13 percent, and bottle weight is a factor in that. About 40 percent of U.S. wineries purchase their bottles from China, meaning the bottles are shipped across the Pacific before they are even filled. Wine Business Monthly, a trade magazine, published a survey last year showing the use of heavier bottles was increasing. Why? “The biggest obstacle to making the switch to lighter bottles remains the perception among U.S. consumers that a heavier bottle indicates better wine inside of it,” the magazine reported.
Let’s be clear: The weight of the bottle does not indicate the quality of wine inside. What it does, though, is add to the price you pay at the register adds to the carbon footprint of wine.
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