Wine Miles - Back on the Road Again   27 Jan 2012

Roger Kerrison


Last week an article appeared in Harpers Wine and Spirits on the back of a press release outlining how wines from the Rueda region in Spain were poised to take market share away from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the UK.

The original press release was distributed by a UK agent, Clink Wines, who have a number of brands from the Rueda region on their books. The release itself was scathing towards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – outlining the issues of quality relating to bulk commoditisation of New Zealand wine and a price point that was no longer offering value to the consumer due to the strong NZ dollar (or more pertinently, a weak British Pound). Both are contentious points that would have been received with umbrage by many producers here in New Zealand.

But these were not the points that rankled us. The one that got us more than a little grumpy was the claim that these wines have a lower carbon footprint than New Zealand wines.


Back in 2006 when we started working on carbon assessments of wine there was a term being widely used – you might remember it – “food miles”.

This term was based on the concept that it would be better to buy products manufactured closer to home as they would have a lower impact on the climate by being responsible for less carbon from transport. Given that New Zealand is about as far away as you can get from the UK, products from here were given the automatic status of “food miles whipping boy”.


A simplistic concept at best, it galvanised all manner of people in New Zealand to really look at whether New Zealand produce was carbon competitive. A ground breaking study was undertaken by Caroline Saunders and her team at Lincoln University to comparatively look at the life cycle carbon impacts of New Zealand products. This study, along with work undertaken by NZTE quickly dispelled the simplistic concept and introduced a wider audience to more robust terms such as cradle to grave and life cycle assessment.


Last week we asked for clarification of the carbon claim made in the press release – but nothing as yet has been forthcoming. We have found no public disclosures on the carbon footprint of Rueda wines and can only assume that the comment was based on the ill conceived idea that because Rueda is closer to London than Marlborough, its wines will have a lower carbon footprint.

Without a transparent study to compare against neither can we claim that Marlborough wines have a lower carbon footprint than those from Rueda, what we do know though is the following:

• It is highly likely that wine freighted to London from Rueda is by road and cross channel ferry. This has a larger carbon footprint than wine freighted by road and sea freight ex Nelson from Marlborough, due to container shipping being a very carbon efficient form of transportation.

• Spain has an electricity emissions factor almost double New Zealand’s.

• Spain has a glass recycling rate that is lower than New Zealand’s.

• Marlborough produces some of the best white wines in the world at almost twice the cropping levels of the Rueda regions vineyards – probably giving better economies of scale in terms of carbon allocation in the vineyard.

• The region is significantly warmer than Marlborough due to its continental climate – again there will probably be a greater amount of energy and HFC’s required for refrigeration of must, juice and wine.

• It is also worth pointing out, without any irony intended, that shipping wine in bulk and bottling in the UK reduces the carbon footprint of New Zealand wines still further.

We have to hold our hands up and say these are only the most likely scenarios as we see them. Without the primary data it’s necessarily all supposition.


After all, the wines might be container shipped out of Corruna to Tilbury, the wineries might have their own small scale renewable energy plants, they might purchase extremely lightweight glass from an efficient European supplier and their agrochemical and fertiliser regimes might be less than New Zealand’s due to the high soil lime content and warmer weather, thus negating the vineyard economies of scale. Their wineries may even be primitive affairs and not use refrigeration at all, preferring to blow away the confected fruit characters of more traditional cool climate wine styles. All of these are possible and could be calculated (and compared), if the numbers came with the claims...


All we are asking is that marketing claims, like the ones put out in the press release, are based on robust studies and not misguided assumption – otherwise it is just marketing “greenwash” – something that DEFRA and the ASA are very strict on policing in the UK.

Originally appeared on http://blog.aurasustainability.com/

(Aura Sustainability)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

Predator Free NZ 2050 to be a massive team effort

25 Jul 2016 Environment
New Zealand Government Hon Steven Joyce Minister of Science and Innovation Hon Nathan Guy Minister for Primary Industries Hon Ma... more

Minister clarifies China trade issue

25 Jul 2016 News
New Zealand Government Hon Todd McClayMinister of Trade 25 July 2016   Minister clarifies China trade issue Trade Minister Todd... more

Business

PM censures Trade Minister for 'head of a pin' answers

25 Jul 2016 Business News By Pattrick Smellie
Article - BusinessDesk Monday 25 July 2016 05:13 PM PM censures Trade Minister for 'head of a pin' answers on China trade ... more

Consultation for FMA, XRB, Companies Office funding

25 Jul 2016 Business News
New Zealand Government   Hon Paul Goldsmith Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs 25 July 2016 Consultation for FMA... more

Living

Young New Zealanders Making Films For Good

18 Jul 2016 Lifestyle
The Outlook for Someday Young New Zealanders Making Films For Good What does sustainability mean to you? Since 2007 The Outlook for... more

Review: NZ's Pitch Black - live in London

8 Jul 2016 Entertainment By Charlotte Everett
20 years after their debut at The Gathering, Pitch Black have satiated a packed venue of fans at London’s Oslo, in... more

Property

House prices to peak next year on new supply

25 Jul 2016 Property By Paul McBeth
Article - BusinessDesk Monday 25 July 2016 House prices to peak next year on new supply, lower migration: Infometrics July 25... more

All five leading retail banks require 40% deposit

21 Jul 2016 Property By Fiona Rotherham
Article - BusinessDesk Thursday 21 July 2016 04:55 PM UDATE: All five leading retail banks require 40% deposit from property ... more

Migration

Kiwis could be affected by tighter UK rules

30 Mar 2016 Migration By Audrey Young
British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair is defending changes to skilled migrant rules for Britain but suggests they won't affect... more

Immigrants' attitudes to corruption worries SFO

17 Feb 2016 Migration By Sophie Boot
Feb. 17 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's record inbound migration has undermined the country's squeaky-clean reputation because of an... more

Travel

NZ guest nights fell in May

12 Jul 2016 Travel & Tourism By Tina Morrison
Article - BusinessDesk NZ guest nights fell in May, snapping 25 consecutive monthly gains July 12 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand guest... more

China's Tianjin Airlines eyes Auckland service

11 Jul 2016 Travel & Tourism
Article - BusinessDesk Monday 11 July 2016 03:36 PM China's Tianjin Airlines eyes Auckland service By Edwin Mitson July 11... more

Sport

Core group of All Blacks Sevens players re-sign with New Zealand Rugby

25 Jul 2016 Rugby
The core of this year’s All Blacks Sevens squad headed by veterans DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson will anchor the side through the... more

Emirates Team New Zealand appoints Southern Spars to build 2017 America's Cup boat

25 Jul 2016 Sailing
Southern Spars today announced it has been appointed to build Emirates Team New Zealand’s boat for the 35th America’s... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on Tony Blair and the Chilcot Report

7 Jul 2016 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell Gordon Campbell on Tony Blair and the Chilcot Report | werewolf more

Gordon Campbell on our refugee response, and a TPP rewrite

14 Jun 2016 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on our paltry refugee response and a brazen US rewrite of the TPP First published at... more

Kiwi Success

New Supreme Court and Court of Appeal appointments

13 Jul 2016 Appointments
New Zealand Government Hon Christopher FinlaysonAttorney-General 13 July 2016 New Supreme Court and Court of Appeal ... more

Awards champion public service excellence

7 Jul 2016 People
New Zealand Government   Hon Paula Bennett Minister of State Services 7 July 2016 Awards champion public service... more

Recruitment

Fletcher chases 100 ex-pat Brits

7 Jul 2016 Recruitment By Paul McBeth
Article - BusinessDesk Fletcher chases 100 ex-pat Brits as construction sector faces capacity constraints July 7 (BusinessDesk) -... more

Zero-hour contracts gone, PPL extended

10 Mar 2016 Recruitment
New Zealand Government Hon Michael Woodhouse Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety 10 March 2016 Zero-hour contracts gone, PPL... more

s