As we enter the Italian wine harvest, we come to that wonderful time of year where producers get to finally bring what they’ve worked so hard for to fruition. Over the next few months, grapes will be picked and they will enter into a fermentation process that will lead to them becoming the bottles of wine that you purchase over the next few months.
But have you ever wondered what happens to all of the waste that this process produces?
After all, you know that you’re getting the juice of the grape, though fermented to the point of it becoming alcoholic. That, of course, leaves so much of the pulp, skin, and so many other waste products at the end of each harvest.
What happens to all of that stuff?
In the old days, a producer may have discarded it. But in the more environmentally conscious world that we live in today, many producers and companies are finding brand new ways to make use of this waste product.
Towards the end of this article, we’ll take a look at several interesting ways that wine waste gets used. But the start off with, we want to examine a particular usage that came as a complete shock to us.
Simply put…we never saw it coming!
Wine Waste and Shoes
It all starts with a Dutch shoe manufacturer called Mercer. One of the largest shoe manufacturers in that country, they created a brand-new mission for themselves:
Make some leather shoes that are suitable for vegans.
It seems like an impossibility, right? After all, leather comes from the skin of animals, typically cows, so surely there’s no way to make a leather shoe that’s okay for a vegan to wear. And in a technical sense, you would be right. But what Mercer have done is that they’ve found a way to turn wine waste into a material that comes surprisingly close to simulating the real leather experience.
The result of all of their hard work is a set of trainers that they’ve named W3RD Wine Pack. Made entirely from sustainable materials, these trainers use wine waste to simulate the leather feel.
That simulation comes as the result of a process created by a company called Vegea. It was this company that worked with a host of Italian wine producers to create a process for the valorisation of wine waste. And it is that very process that produces the material that’s being used in Mercer’s new line of shoes.
Now, as we mentioned, these trainers are intended to be 100% sustainable. However, wine waste cannot be used for every aspect of the shoe. For example, the sole doesn’t come from wine. Instead, it’s made using algae, which is a form of plant that is absolutely abundant in the world’s oceans, seas, and practically anywhere else where large bodies of water form.
The mesh also does not come from wine waste. Instead, it’s made using recycled PET bottles, which contributes to a shoe that has a 0% carbon footprint.
We know what you’re thinking now…
That all sounds very admirable. But how much can I expect to pay to get my hands on a pair of these shoes.
Unfortunately, they don’t come cheap. Mercer’s charging €250 per pair, though some retailers may alter that price slightly once the shoes finally hit stores. Still, you at least get a choice of four colours if you do decide to buy the shoes.
But perhaps they’re out of your price range for the time being. Does that mean that the entire concept of using Italian wine waste for shoe creation would go out of the window?
We don’t believe so. In fact, we believe that this may be the start of something special. Over time, the valorisation process used now may become more efficient, and thus more cost-effective. If that occurs, and more shoe manufacturers start adopting similar ideas, we may see wine waste used to simulate leather in many more shoes. After all, with millions of tonnes of the stuff produced each year, there’s no denying that the source material is in abundance.
All that’s left now is to find a way to make production of the leather that comes from it more affordable.
What Else do Winemakers Do With Wine Waste?
When it’s not being used to make shoes, what other uses have producers and enterprising companies found for Italian wine waste?
In some cases, the waste from one type of wine can be used to make another. This is a practice that’s common in the production of Grappa, which is a traditional Italian brandy. That’s made using the waste that comes from the production of certain Italian white wines.
The waste has also commonly been used as both fertiliser and animal feed in the past, so it’s not like Italian winemakers have to find a way to dump tons of the stuff every year. We’re even seeing some research to suggest that the waste, which is often referred to as Pomace, may actually be good for human consumption. Some scientists point to its high antioxidant content and abundance of fibre as reasons for trying to use it in foods. And it is in fact sometimes used in the production of bread, pasta, and other savoury dishes.
Still, with over 12 million tons of the stuff produced globally every year, we’d say there’s plenty of space for an enterprising shoe manufacturer to show us what else they can do with Italian wine waste.
The Final Word
The mind literally boggles at the sheer creativity and inventiveness of people at times. When we heard about using Italian wine waste for shoes, we just couldn’t see how it was possible. But it’s not only possible but it’s also happening as we speak for a line of shoes that will be in stores very soon.
It leaves us wondering what other uses will be found for wine waste in the future. Who knows? Maybe drinking more wine will produce the waste that powers production in other industries in the future!