Sustainability has become a hot topic in the business world in recent years. If you go on any major company’s website, you’ll almost inevitably see a section dedicated to what they’re doing to make their practices more sustainable.
We can’t deny that sustainability is a marketing tool in today’s world. With so many consumers, particularly those from younger generations, being so concerned about the environment, a lot of businesses use their drive towards sustainability to sell more products.
While that may seem cynical, it’s also not a bad thing. Even if companies use sustainability as a marketing tool, their doing so still means they’re adopting healthier practices that preserve the Earth.
That brings us to the Italian wine industry.
There has been a definite drive towards more sustainable practices in Italian wine recently. And this makes business sense in more ways than one. Not only does sustainability serve as a marketing tool for Italian wine companies, but it also helps them to preserve the land that allows them to produce wines in the first place.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what wine companies do to drive sustainability. We’re also going to help you with some tips for choosing sustainable wines. But first, we need to answer an important question.
What is Sustainability in Italian Wine?
A lot of people assume that sustainability is linked to the growing organic and biodynamic wine industries. This isn’t necessarily the case. Sustainable and organic are not the same thing, though a lot of basic concepts cross over. For example, an organic wine can still be produced in an unsustainable manner if the producer is wasteful in production. Furthermore, a non-organic wine can still be sustainable, even if it isn’t 100% natural.
So, what makes an Italian wine sustainable.
According to the wine website Pull The Cork, a sustainable wine is one that’s produced thoughtfully, economically, and ecologically responsibly.
In practice, this means the producer has done as much as they can to reduce waste and use as few natural resources as possible. Sustainable practices result in producers using every grape on their vines, for example. It also means the producer only uses as much water and energy as needed to grow their grapes. Plus, many sustainable producers implement practices to offset the energy they use. For example, a producer may commit to planting trees are engaging in other activities that offset the carbon dioxide produced by their work.
Ultimately, sustainable winemaking is about finding ways to produce wine on a commercial scale without hurting the land so much that it becomes unusable for future generations.
What Do Italian Wine Producers do to be More Sustainable?
There are several practices an Italian wine producer can follow to create more sustainable wines.
Water and energy conservation are key. A producer could adapt their irrigation system to ensure their vines only get as much water as they need. They may also preserve water wherever they can in the production process. On the energy side of things, the producer may use more efficient technologies or even use manual methods instead of machines. Alternatively, they may implement clean means of energy production, such as solar panels.
That brings us nicely to reducing carbon emissions.
Solar panels generate clean electricity, which cuts down on the carbon produced by making Italian wine. Other practices relate to offsetting a producer’s carbon footprint, which is where the tree planting example from earlier comes in. Producers may plant enough trees to handle the carbon emissions they generate, thus creating a carbon-neutral production process.
Packaging is also a key area.
For example, some producers may use recycled glass for their wine bottles. Or, they may focus on cardboard packaging, with a commitment to replant any trees they use. Cork stoppers are also more sustainable than metal screw tops, especially if the producer replenishes cork supplies as part of their sustainability efforts.
Finally, the producer may also take an active role in exercising social responsibility for their entire community.
This is where we may see some crossover with organic wines. For example, using non-chemical pesticides means that other animals aren’t affected by chemicals. As such, the region’s biodiversity is maintained. Fair compensation for employees also works its way into sustainability as it allows people to contribute more to the local economy, in addition to ensuring they’re comfortably enough financially to be able to engage in sustainable practices themselves.
Finding Sustainable Wines
Now you know what goes into creating sustainable wines, you need to know how to find them. The following are a few tips that help you to do that while ensuring you still enjoy a tasty Italian wine.
- Look for membership to the International Wineries for Climate Change. Producers join this organization to share strategies and implement working practices that result in carbon neutrality. If a producer advertises their membership, that’s a good sign that they’re operating, or taking steps to operate, sustainably.
- Think about the aspects of sustainability that matter most to you. For some, that may be the environmental side of things, meaning you lean more towards organic wines. For others, you may care more about the producer taking long-term steps to achieve carbon neutrality. While this may include organic practices, the focus here is on making the whole process more energy-efficient. Think about what matters to you and make your choices accordingly.
- Finding a quality wine involves learning more about how sustainable practices affect the wine. For example, producers who create natural wines don’t use sulphites in their processes. This is a sustainable act. However, it also means the wine doesn’t last as long. You’ll also find that many sustainable wines have more herbaceous notes, meaning you need to look for companies that take specific actions to balance these earthy tones with complimentary notes.
The Final Word
Research is key when searching for sustainable Italian wines.
You need to know about the producers’ practices and the steps they’re taking to become more efficient. Simply choosing a producer because they’re organic or biodynamic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a sustainable wine, especially if the rest of their practices don’t add up.
Of course, Xtrawine is here to help. We maintain a special category to help you find organic and sustainable wines, meaning we do a lot of the legwork for you.
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