What with it being the inaugural New Zealand Wine Week next week, I have a question…
How can a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that has to make it’s way from the other side of the world to Canada be in any way sustainable?
That’s the question I put to Edwin Massey, New Zealand Winegrowers’ General Manager of Sustainability at the start of our video interview a few weeks ago, and as I had guessed, he expected the question… and he knew all of the answers.
The things is, often we concentrate solely upon the so-called “Food Miles” part of the equation, that is the distance travelled from point of origin to point of consumption. However this particular factor is only one aspect of the vastly complicated value chain that produces consumable products such as wine.
So the term Food Miles is mistakenly used interchangeably with the concept of sustainability. Because Food Miles only looks at emissions associated with freight and not those associated with the production phase, it is actually a rather inadequate measure of emissions, especially seeing as the aforementioned production phase can often account for the majority of emissions! So Food Miles is by no means a proxy measure of product sustainability.
Indeed, when it comes to New Zealand wines, only around 22% of the emissions (in grammes of CO2) come from the shipping component… and it just so happens that New Zealand has some of the most efficient wine production in the world.
As far as I can remember, the term sustainability and the country of New Zealand have been pretty synonymous, as the country has long been at the very tip of the spear when it comes to implementing progressive environmental protection programs and the like. Over the years, New Zealand Wine have positioned themselves as industry leaders within their country when it comes to preparing for a sustainable future, including a commitment for the industry to be carbon-neutral before the national regulatory deadline of 2050 (in line with the Paris agreement).
Since 1995 New Zealand Wines has implemented what is known as the Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) programme, which is based upon the three pillars of environmental, economic, and social well-being, with 98% of the country’s vineyard area being certified by independent auditors to ensure that they are meeting robust industry standards regarding sustainability metrics; these are in five focus areas: People, Climate Change, Waste, Water, and Pest and Disease, and these standards have been developed to align the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
This world-leading sustainability program truly is a pioneering model for all wine-producing countries to aspire to.
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And seeing that Iron Maiden poster at the end really cheered him up.