Posts Tagged wine

Switching to Plastic Wine Bottles for Environmental Reasons

Posted by on Sunday, 22 January, 2012

Wine Bottle After hearing about the damage caused by plastic waste on the beaches and in the oceans, the news that environmental organizations encouraged winemakers to store their wine in plastic bottles was a big surprise. Many cities assess extra fees on plastic bags to discourage shoppers from using plastic, and conduct anti-plastic informational campaigns. Nevertheless, winemakers in the United Kingdom received support from government supported environmental organizations for their plastic bottle initiative, reported Wine Anorak.

Although glass does not create floating islands of trash, it does have one major environmental disadvantage in comparison with plastic. Winemakers frequently ship their wines to markets in distant nations, and glass is heavy. Because plastic bottles weigh less than glass bottles, the trucks that carry the plastic wine bottles release fewer carbon emissions during transport. Wine Anorak states that the British government has calculated that switching to plastic wine bottles reduces annual carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 tons.

Consumers who know about the issues that plastic waste creates may need some additional convincing before they purchase plastic wine bottles. Lesley Gevirtz, for the Globe and Mail, gives a more detailed argument, explaining that glass wine bottles weigh almost ten times more than plastic wine bottles, and PET can be recycled.
Of course, responsible parties need to make sure that consumers drop off PET in recycling bins and local facilities are available for PET recycling.

Glass manufacturers could reduce transportation costs by selling thinner bottles to winemakers. According to Modern Wine Magazine, British winemakers did make this request, but it irritated the glass manufacturers, as they did not want to produce thinner glass bottles. Transportation costs for the thinner glass bottles would still be higher than the costs of transporting plastic bottles, as reducing glass thickness by 90 percent would make wine bottles much more fragile.

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The Daily Mail brings up a major issue with plastic wine bottles, mentioning a study that claims that white wine degrades in six months when stored in plastic bottles, although red wine suffered fewer effects. This is not a major problem for a consumer who plans to drink her wine soon after she buys it, but a consumer who plans to store the wine in her cellar for a longer period should be aware of this issue.

Of course, the switch to plastic bottles also affects costs. Winemakers pay less money to ship their lighter plastic bottles to far off foreign markets. Many beverage makers prefer plastic containers because of their durability, as glass bottles shatter easily. Wine makers do face a tradeoff here, as plastic bottles do make their wines look cheaper. For a budget wine this isn’t as important, but customers may not be willing to buy a high end wine in a plastic bottle.

Pros & Cons of Wine Taps

Posted by on Friday, 3 December, 2010

A newer method of serving wine at bars is serving it directly from the tap. This method is popular with environmentalists because when a bar serves wine from the tap, there is no need to use glass, plastic, metal, or other resources to make a bottle or a cap, which reduces waste. There are still some disadvantages with wine on tap because of issues related to the cork industry.

The main advantage of the wine tap is that the reservoir can hold a large amount of wine. Michigan State University
mentions that one bar uses a 1000 liter tank to store wine for the tap. A standard bottle of wine that holds four glasses is 750 milliliters, and even the larger bottles of wine only hold 1.5 liters, so the tank is holding the equivalent of 1333 standard bottles of wine.

One disadvantage of the wine tank is that wine can become contaminated. Fungus that grows on the cork is a significant problem with corked wine. If fungus gets into the 1000 liter tank, it can spoil all of the wine, which is very wasteful. It is much easier to discard an individual bottle of wine if fungus grows in the bottle.

Another advantage of the wine tap is that it is easier to make sure that each glass is the same size and receives the same mixing. Other types of restaurant taps can release a standard amount of a drink, and even automatically shut off to prevent overfilling a glass. The wine tap prevents overfills or underfills of each glass, and can automatically record how many glasses are served.

A disadvantage of the wine tap is that the bar no longer needs to purchase bottles that contain cork. The cork industry is important in Portugal and Spain because cork trees grow in wilderness reserve areas. If wine buyers no longer need to purchase cork, the extra income from this wilderness goes away. The local governments will not receive tax revenue from the cork trees and will have an incentive to chop them down and allow developers to build apartments and condominiums.

Biodynamic Wines

Posted by on Sunday, 3 October, 2010

Biodynamic farming is a type of environmentally sustainable agriculture. It’s not widely spread yet, so only a few farms use this process. One of the early implementers of biodynamic farming is the wine industry.

The biodynamic method is based on techniques which the naturalist Rudolf Steiner introduced. It includes similarities with organic wine production, although it is not exactly the same and there are separate institutions which inspect this wine. It is possible for a wine to have organic certification as well as biodynamic certification, since both methods rely on the use of natural processes rather than synthetic pesticides for pest control and attempt to make the grape farming process less damaging to the environment.

Biodynamic wine certification is performed by the Demeter Institute, which has its United States operations in Oregon. The institute provides certification, but requires some additional actions which are not necessary for organic certification. To gain Biodynamic certification, the farm must reserve 10 percent of its land area for biodiversity purposes, which can be either untouched wilderness or specific environments such as hedgerows for wildlife to live in. The certification also requires the farmer to establish vegetative cover, to ensure that soil will be able to support future crops.

The main features of biodynamic wine are that the certification process prohibits some processes that can alter the taste of the wine. According to Demeter the winery may not add additional yeast, sugar, or acids to the wine when creating it. These techniques make the wine production process similar to the creation of ancient wines, when the use of additives was not yet discovered. The website writers seem a little concerned that modern wine connoisseurs may not be used to this type of wine, although if you want to drink the wine that Socrates drank, this is as close as you’re going to get.

The Fetzer wine company also uses biodynamic methods when it makes wine. Fetzer wine is widely available, and many vegetarians and vegans prefer it since this is one of the few companies that doesn’t use egg yolks or fish guts to clarify wine. Wine that isn’t clarified has a lot of particulate matter that doesn’t look good, although this is preferable to eating animal products for some people. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied Jim Fetzer’s biodynamic wine farm at Ceago to improve the environmental profile of winemaking operations.

The Cork Campaign

Posted by on Sunday, 15 August, 2010

Wine Bottle A cork, made from a piece of cork oak, traditionally seals wine bottles. Some winemakers are using plastic bottle stoppers or metal caps. There is a tradeoff here. Cork can grow mold and it can be difficult for some people to open the corked bottle, although this is part of the ritual of enjoying wine. A plastic stopper doesn’t have mold problems and petroleum based plastics are cheap, for now, so some winemakers use these as an alternative. A new campaign, reported by Triple Pundit, has started at 100 Percent Cork to convince winemakers to continue corking wine bottles with real cork.

Cork has many environmental advantages. Cork trees, which are a type of oak, produce shade and oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the air. According to 100 Percent Cork, it is not necessary to chop down a cork tree to produce corks for wine bottles, the cork only uses part of the bark. The cork trees have a long lifespan, several hundred years, even when winemakers harvest their bark. It is also possible to grow the cork trees organically. Organic wines are popular so it would be nice to know that the stopper for the wine bottle is an organic product as well. Cork farmers are also backing this campaign, since they lose their jobs if winemakers switch to plastic. Many of the cork farmers live in Portugal which has been hit very hard by financial turmoil.

One of the Big 4 accounting firms, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, performed a study comparing natural cork to plastic and metal stoppers. Natural cork produces much less carbon emissions by far, with plastics producing 10 times as many emissions and metal producing as much as 24 times greater emissions. This is a complete lifestyle study so it also includes mining expenses, plastic manufacturing, and disposal costs.

Cork also receives some unfair blame for causing wine taint. Researchers at Virginia Tech have found an alternate explanation for the cause of the taint. The chemical tribromophenol, often found in wood cleaners, is used in many wineries since it prevents fires as well as kills fungi. Tribromophenol has similar chemistry to trichloroanisole, which does cause cork related taint problems in wine. Both of these compounds are halogenated benzene rings, so telling them apart without performing chemical tests may be difficult.

Protecting the cork industry helps protect wildlife habitat in Portugal and Spain. According to the Smithsonian Zoogoer, cork trees grow in a region known as the dehesa, where many animals live in a grassland which is the home of many oaks. If winemakers switch to using plastic or metal stoppers, cork farmers will not earn any money and may have to sell the dehesa land to developers. The Smithsonian states that half of the world’s cork is grown in the dehesa in Portugal, and another quarter is grown in the Spanish dehesa.