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

A summer ‘gift’ for your boatie

19 Dec 2014 News
Helping your friends and family stay safe on the water this holiday season is the gift that lasts a lifetime, Associate Transport... more

Consultation starts on ACC rates for free doctors’ visits

19 Dec 2014 News
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and ACC Minister Nikki Kaye say consultation starts today on ACC support towards free kids’... more

Business

NZ business confidence eases in December, still buoyant

19 Dec 2014 Business News
By Paul McBeth Dec. 19 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand business confidence slipped in December, while staying largely upbeat, as... more

Xero's former chief revenue officer moves to Trade Me

19 Dec 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Stuart McLean moves to Trade Me as Xero ditches chief revenue role By Suze Metherell Dec. 19 ... more

Living

New access system for Te Urewera

19 Dec 2014 Lifestyle
‘Hunters from throughout NZ and especially the North Island, will welcome the start of the new access system for Te... more

Fanzones for Auckland’s non-stop summer

19 Dec 2014 Lifestyle
Auckland will turn on a range of free activities this non-stop summer, with the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Festival and Fanzone,... more

Property

Affordable housing development agreement signed

18 Dec 2014 Property
The Government has signed a development agreement for the construction of 237 homes as part of its affordable housing project on an... more

NZ weekly rents rise 5.3% in November, upward trend slowing

15 Dec 2014 Property
By Paul McBeth Dec. 15 (BusinessDesk) - Median national housing rents rose at an annual pace of 5.3 percent in November, slowing... more

Migration

Immigration rises to a fresh annual record

19 Dec 2014 Migration
Immigration rises to a fresh record, fuelled by returning kiwis, Indian students By Suze Metherell Dec. 19 (BusinessDesk) - New... more

UK pension service Britannia 'pauses' TV ads on FMA warning

19 Dec 2014 Migration
By Suze Metherell Dec. 19 (BusinessDesk) - Britannia Financial Services, a UK pension transfer agency whose advertisements feature... more

Travel

Air New Zealand takes out win on World's Top Ten Airlines

18 Dec 2014 Travel & Tourism
AirlineRatings.com has announced along with its Airline Excellence Awards its Top Ten airlines for 2015. Heading the list is... more

Tourism Holdings lifts annual profit forecast to $17 million

18 Dec 2014 Travel & Tourism
By Suze Metherell Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - Tourism Holdings, the biggest campervan rental company in Australia and New Zealand, has... more

Sport

Top local athletes to compete at Colgate Games in Wellington

19 Dec 2014 Sport
The Colgate Games, New Zealand’s biggest annual children’s track and field athletics event, will be held in... more

Badminton Names Bulk of Junior Team for Oceania Champs

19 Dec 2014 Sport
For a number of New Zealand’s brightest young Badminton prospects Christmas and the New Year holiday period just got a little... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on the Pakistan schoolchildren killings

18 Dec 2014 Column
by Gordon Campbell The slaughter of the children in Pakistan is incomprehensibly awful. On the side, it has thrown a spotlight onto... more

Gordon Campbell on income inequality, and Christmas songs

12 Dec 2014 Column
Article - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on income inequality, and yo ho ho Christmas songs by Gordon Campbell As 2014... more

Kiwi Success

DreamCatchers launched in UK

18 Dec 2014 People
In association with Kea, The New Zealand High Commission and The New Zealand Society, Dream Catchers was launched at New Zealand House... more

Inspiring Stories :Young Kiwis Making a Difference

8 Dec 2014 People
Wellington, December 8th – At only 15 years old, Auckland student Hunter Williams is the youngest winner of the Inspiring... more

Recruitment

Job ads trending down, says ANZ survey

19 Dec 2014 Recruitment
By Fiona Rotherham Total job advertising has taken an end-of-year dip, falling 0.1 per cent in November after seasonal adjustments,... more

Scheme to fill hard-to-staff health jobs working

18 Dec 2014 Recruitment
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a scheme to fill hard-to-staff health roles is making a real difference to the career choices... more