Cover crops are almost as old as wine itself. The term refers to other types of vegetation that grow between the vineyard rows. They might be wild plants that grow in the area or crops that are specifically selected and sown.
In the fields, weeds compete with the vines for water, nutrients, and growing space. This means they have to be carefully controlled to avoid undesired consequences for the vineyard.
Cover crops are a way of controlling unwanted weeds in addition to providing other benefits like improved soil fertility, erosion control, and maintaining biodiversity in the vineyard.
How effective these crops are depends on the selected plant species, and whether they match the characteristics and needs of the vineyard. For example, certain permanent cover crops not only compete with the weeds, but can eventually do so with the vines as well.
The uncontrolled growth of cover crops or planting them without taking the vineyard conditions into account can also have negative consequences, such as diminishing the vegetative growth of the vines.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the viticultural goals in order to choose the most suitable cover crops and see real benefits for the natural conditions of the vineyard.
PEFC and FSC forest certification
During the 90s, people began treating deforestation as a global problem. Almost half of the planet’s forest cover had disappeared, a loss that was particularly pronounced in tropical areas.
This led to the creation of certification programmes to protect forests. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was established in 1990, followed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) in 1999.
The main objective of both certifications is to promote the sustainable management of forests to strike a balance between the social, economic, and environmental needs and uses of the world’s woodlands. Generally speaking, they provide the consumer with a guarantee that they are purchasing wood or other wood-derived products from a responsibly and sustainably managed forest.
Although the main goal is forest conservation, the certifications also come with a financial incentive, because certified wood can be sold at a higher price. They also generate other indirect advantages on a commercial, social, political, and environmental level.
This is why it is essential to prioritize sustainable forest management as a way of ensuring a brighter future for our resources, people’s lives, and fine wines.
If you look for the definition of sustainability in a dictionary, it is described as the capability of a system to endure and maintain itself. According to the book by Donnella Meadows “Thinking in Systems” (Meadows, 2008), a system is a set of elements that are organized in order to achieve an objective. Without this objective, a collection of parts or materials cannot be considered a system.
Systems are all around us. There are living (animals and humans), mechanical (machines such as automobiles), industrial (factories) and social and political systems (schools and banks). Systems maintain interactions between their components and with other systems. Therefore, if any element is taken out, the system will not maintain the same function and a change will occur. Although the concept of a system can seem incompatible with sustainability, it is essential in order to help us to understand that humans, as systems, are in continuous interaction with social constructs, machines and the environment we live in. We do not normally realize about our interactions with the systems around us; in most of the situations, when a problem arises, we think about solving this particular situation without taking into consideration the knock-on effects of the taken actions on other systems. Sustainability is based on looking at the big picture, in which the parts of any system cannot exist individually, outside their relationship with the whole.
In order to create a system with the capacity to endure and continue sustainably, we cannot only fix one piece of the system in isolation from the others. We need to understand sustainability as the dynamic interaction between, living, mechanical, industrial and social and political systems, as a whole, as one system.
Sustainability is based on three pillars:
Planet, which is related to the maintenance of environmental sustainability for any system to be able to preserve the natural resources and energy.
People that advocate social sustainability and the maintenance of fair and beneficial labor practices with real community involvement.
Profit related to the maintenance of long term economic growth, without a negative environmental impact, with the capacity to endure, which is known as economic sustainability.
In the last ten years, the wine industry has presented a gradual adaptation of sustainable practices within organizations. Although there has been a dramatic rise in the number of certifications in order to encourage sustainability in wineries, the concept is occasionally not clearly understood and practices are mainly focused on agricultural activities rather than social and economic ones, which are required in the concept of sustainability as a whole.
Current studies have demonstrated that even though consumers report positive intent to buy sustainable wines, the current level of awareness still remains low. Sustainability is a concept that may mean different things to different people, but the increasing amount of evidence of the demand and desire for this information is creating the necessity to make this concept more transparent and the reasons for having sustainable wine more evident. The wine industry has the opportunity to create a business model based on producing wines that have a positive impact on people and the planet, with an interconnected economic, industrial and social framework, and the objective of creating systems that are not only efficient but also essentially sustainable at all levels.
According to the OIV, organic winegrowing refers to a wine and grape production system that adheres to a series of general principles based on the maintenance of ecosystems and their natural resources, biodiversity, and fertility by minimizing the use of synthetic chemical products. In organic vineyards, winegrowers are responsible for ensuring that every product complies with organic farming standards.
At its core, organic farming is about the soil – this is its raison d’être – and the rules of the system differ from conventional agriculture. Farmers can only use substances that have been authorized by the certifying organizations, and harmful synthetic products are prohibited.
The use of copper and sulphur to protect against pathogenic microorganisms is permitted in organic farming, but their dosage is regulated and, in the case of sulphur compounds, lower than in non-organic wines.
Although the emphasis is on soil management, organic farming extends to all other stages in the food supply chain as well, including vinification. The objective is to limit external physical and chemical interventions and only use naturally derived additives. The certification process requires full and proper traceability of the practices used in both the vineyard and winery, which must be in line with organic principles and objectives.
Although there is no standard definition of the circular economy, its fundamental goal is to change our current linear economic model, which follows an extraction-use-disposal pattern.
This new economic paradigm proposes the introduction of a circular system which closes the loop through strategies based on eliminating and reducing contamination and waste, extending the life cycle of products and materials as long as possible, and regenerating natural systems.
Backed by the transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model creates economic growth by shifting the way we think (rethink) about business models, and the internal analysis of their efficiency and effectiveness in the long term.
The circular economy sets out to improve the resilience of economic models, as well as implementing sustainable production and consumption systems. It provides economic benefits through cost-saving measures based on efficient resource management, and financial revenue through the external valuation of secondary materials or synergies that may arise between companies within the same, or different, sectors.
The environmental benefits of the circular economy include the optimization of natural resources, and the reduction of waste and pollution. Finally, the social benefits range from improved quality of life as a result of reduced environmental impacts to ethically more responsible business models and job creation.
Carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that individuals and organizations generate through their activities and operations. It is the imprint we leave on the planet as we go about our lives and business, and as such, it is essential to account for these emissions in order to carry out an environmental impact analysis. GHGs include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs, and ozone. However, CO2 is the most abundant among the GHGs, which is why a carbon footprint is expressed in tonnes of CO2 (or CO2 equivalents) – a unit of measurement that is used as a reference in measuring all of the other gases. Calculating and analysing emissions is time consuming and presents the industry with an enormous challenge, but it is the only alternative that makes it possible to establish control and reduction strategies: after all, we cannot control and reduce something if we don’t measure it first.
The wine production industry currently has various carbon footprinting systems at its disposal. FIVS provides a carbon emissions accounting protocol based on the methodology developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) and IWCA also offer emission quantification systems to wineries that register as members or collaborators.
Best of all, the benefits of carbon footprinting for wineries are no longer exclusively focused on the environmental management of the organization’s direct and indirect activities. They also include cost-saving opportunities through improved energy efficiency and production processes. At the same time, carbon footprinting sets an organization or company and its products apart, as well as improving its capacity to retain and attract talent.
The basic idea behind recycling is to recover certain materials from waste products and make them available to the market for the manufacture of other products. For example, melting glass bottles to obtain new glass.
For a material to be recyclable, it must satisfy at least six factors: Feasibility, the materials must be available and efficiently classified. Viability, the materials have to be competitively priced compared to virgin materials. Convenience, the recycled materials must meet an acceptable standard of quality and an appropriate degree of purity. The recycling process must offer a higher degree of sustainability than the use of virgin raw materials, and it should not create any legal obstacles – quite the opposite: it should provide legal incentives.
The consistent performance of certain materials – like glass, metals, and paper – in these six areas explains their reliable level of success over time and why they are compatible with a closed-loop recycling process, which makes them infinitely recyclable.keeping ecosystems in balance
Permaculture is a philosophy and design process based on holistic thinking. It is informed by 12 principles modelled on nature and three basic ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. The principles represent a set of techniques and systems that allow humankind to satisfy its needs while reducing the ecological impact of doing so.
According to David Holmgren, one of the co-originators of this philosophy, the following ideas constitute the foundation of permaculture:
1. Creatively use and respond to change in order to generate a positive impact.
2. Observe and interact, dedicating the time that is needed for change.
3. Catch and store energy with the overall idea of using resources in a sustainable manner.
4. Obtain a yield from your work.
5. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback to create systems based on continuous improvement.
6. Use and value renewable resources and services based on working with nature, not against it.
7. Produce no waste.
8. Design from patterns to details, drawing on patterns found in the natural world and society.
9. Integrate rather than segregate elements in order to create systems.
10. Use small and slow solutions, like life itself; simplicity is often the most effective approach.
11. Use and value diversity to reduce risk and vulnerability.
12. Use edges and value the marginal.
Although permaculture is usually associated with farming, the concept has found its way into other sectors. Many believe that permaculture holds the answers to living sustainably on this planet and that it offers us a blueprint for completely redesigning our economy along with our financial, social, and political structures.
From bio- (the Greek “bios”; life) and diversity (the Latin “diversitas”; variety). Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of living organisms, including terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the complex ecological systems that encompass them. The concept goes beyond the diversity found within individual species, or between species and ecosystems.
Biodiversity is responsible for keeping ecosystems in balance – ecosystems which are also home to human beings. This is not a static system but a dynamic one that evolves over time. It includes all organisms, from the most microscopic bacteria to the most complex plants and animals.
Biodiversity provides humankind with countless benefits. It constitutes our main source of natural resources and raw materials. Among other things, biodiversity provides us with food security, because it gives us access to safe, nutritious foods and clean water.
Studies have also shown that it has a direct impact on human health. Various species of wildlife have the ability to act as natural mechanisms to control viruses and bacteria, which prevents infectious diseases from reaching humans. One of the clearest demonstrations of this in recent times is undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic. developing countries
Polyvinyl chloride is a chemical combination of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine. It is obtained through the polymerization of vinyl chloride, which is produced using chlorine and ethylene. The production process requires the use of petroleum.
PVC belongs to the family of thermoplastics, which are defined as polymers that soften when exposed to heat (140–205°C) at which point they can be easily moulded; when cooled, they return to their initial consistency but maintain their new form. It has inherent insulation properties since it conducts neither electricity nor heat, in addition to being a very durable material.
These properties make PVC a widely used polymer in various industries: construction, automotive, electrical, electronics, etc.
The PVC formula contains additives to improve its properties. This makes it a difficult material to recycle and recover for subsequent reuse. In addition, its dependence on fossil fuels – specifically petroleum – in the production process means that it is not a sustainable element in the long term.
The “natural wine” movement began in France. Jules Chauvet is considered the father of the present-day momentum that surrounds these types of wines.
Despite lacking a clear legal definition, natural wines could be objectively defined as wines made with minimum intervention – that is to say with a minimum addition of external factors and practicing some sort of organic or biodynamic agriculture or using only natural products in a way that respects natural cycles.
External factors include commercial yeasts and bacteria, starter cultures for fermentation, any acidification agent (citric or tartaric acid), and sulphur dioxide.
Natural wine producers work without SO2, and only on rare occasions may their wines contain very low amounts of sulphites, usually <20 mg/litre.
Similarly, winemakers only apply a very limited number of production processes in the winery. Natural wines are not filtered or clarified or stabilized with additives or external processes such as electrodialysis or cold stabilization.
Generally speaking, when producing natural wines, winemakers are seeking the expression of the grape and its terroir, as well as providing consumers with transparency.
European Green Deal
In December 2019, the European Commission presented the first political roadmap to tackle climate change and begin the transition towards sustainable economic development in the European Union (EU).
The deal provides the European Union with tools to meet the commitments it made as a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement.
One of the key objectives of the European Green Deal is to drastically reduce emissions in the coming decade in order to meet the EU-established target of becoming climate neutral by 2050.
In what is undoubtedly the most ambitious roadmap it has laid out so far, the European Union pursues several objectives: encouraging the efficient use of resources by transitioning to a clean circular economy, halting climate change, reversing the loss of biodiversity, and reducing pollution.
GHG Protocol & ISO 14064
For companies and organizations looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the first step is to carry out an analysis and calculation of their carbon footprint. Among the internationally recognized methodologies to do so, we find the GHG Protocol and ISO 14064.
GHG Protocol is by far the most widely used methodology on a global level. It was the first methodology designed for this purpose, developed by the World Resource Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
The family of ISO 14064 standards is also designed to measure greenhouse gas emissions. This international protocol is based on the GHG protocol corporate standard but has adapted and structured its requirements into an ISO standard.
Fossil fuels are currently the most widely used source of energy. Fossil fuels formed as a result of the decomposition of organic matter (organisms that were once alive, such as plants or animals). They represent a natural resource which took millions of years to make and whose reserves are limited.
There are three major types of fossil fuel: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuel combustion is driving the production of emissions like CO2, which are responsible for what is known as the greenhouse effect, making these fuels a major contributing factor to pollution. In addition to causing serious environmental problems, fossil fuels are a non-renewable source of energy, meaning that sooner or later they will run out.
For all of the above reasons, a commitment to alternative energy sources is imperative. They would allow us to mitigate the negative impact of fossil fuels while making energy production more stable and viable in the long term.
Drought is defined as a deficiency of precipitation over a period of time, based on the amount of water present in a particular area. There are various types of drought: meteorological, hydrological, agricultural, and socioeconomic. The initial cause of all droughts is lack of rainfall (meteorological drought) which results in a water shortage (hydrological drought). Agricultural drought refers to the effects of a water shortage on the hydrological needs of a specific crop at a particular time of year. Every crop has different hydrological needs throughout its growth season. Finally, socioeconomic drought describes a situation when water scarcity affects people and economic activities.
The consequences of drought can be direct or indirect, ranging from the environmental impact on soils, living organisms, natural spaces, and pollution to economic repercussions, for instance on economic growth, and social ramifications in terms of public health, unemployment, and migration.
The term “indigenous” is used to describe grapes that are native to a specific region and derives from the Latin word indigena, meaning “a native”. These are the grape varieties typically found in a particular wine region. They have adapted to a specific soil and climate which allow them to fully express their typicity.
Indigenous grape varieties play an important role in the wine production of many countries, including Portugal and Spain, which maintain their own cultivars, resulting in wines with distinctive characteristics.
The RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) defines wine tourism as tourism in areas dedicated to farming and winemaking, including visits to vineyards and wineries, and wine tastings.
This type of tourism is closely linked to food and cultural tourism since every wine region has its own history, culture, and culinary diversity.
In countries like Italy, Portugal, and Spain, wine tourism is highly regarded and provides its wineries with additional revenue, while at the same time providing the countries with an important tool to attract tourists.
Wine tourism adds value to the wine. By giving consumers the chance to discover the story behind a product they buy and enjoy, wine tourism generates greater appreciation for the work carried out by everyone involved in the winemaking process.
In 2006, three friends in the United States decided to found the B Corp certification, based on their shared vision of transforming businesses into a force for good.
According to bcorporation.net, a B Corp certified company must meet the highest standards in terms of sustainability, social impact, environment, transparency, and legality.
B Corp certification takes a holistic view and isn’t solely focused on one social or environmental topic. As a result, companies commit themselves to continuously improving
their organization from a holistic standpoint. In order to be certified, a company must meet the following criteria:
- Demonstrate high social and environmental performance
- Make a legal commitment by changing its corporate governance structure
- Exhibit transparency