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

PM saddened at passing of Dame Thea Muldoon

25 Feb 2015 News
PM saddened at passing of Dame Thea Muldoon Prime Minister John Key today expressed his sadness at the passing of Dame Thea ... more

Bill to fight child exploitation passes second reading

25 Feb 2015 News
  A Bill to better protect children from sexual exploitation passed its second reading in Parliament last night.   The... more

Business

MARKET CLOSE: NZX 50 rises to record, led by Xero

25 Feb 2015 Business News
By Suze Metherell Feb. 25 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose to a record, led by Xero after it raised $147 million from two... more

Tourism Holdings beats 1H guidance on reduced fleet

25 Feb 2015 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Tourism Holdings beats 1H guidance on reduced fleet, wider margins By Suze Metherell Feb. 25 ... more

Living

A little drive goes a long way

25 Feb 2015 Lifestyle
Dunedin businesses have given their full support to the Otago Polytechnic Education Open 2015. The event will be taking place at... more

Duke Kahanamoku – 100 years of Surfing in New Zealand

25 Feb 2015 Lifestyle
Surfbreak Protection Society Duke Kahanamoku – 100 years of Surfing in New Zealand Celebrations are to be held in New Brighton... more

Property

Auckland inner-city height restrictions weighing on supply

25 Feb 2015 Property By Paul McBeth
Auckland inner-city height restrictions weighing on supply, RBNZ's Wheeler says Feb. 25 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's government... more

NZ house sales rise 2.6% in January, median price dips from December

11 Feb 2015 Property
Article - BusinessDesk Feb. 11 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand residential property sales rose in January from the same month last... more

Migration

NZ migration rose to record in 2014

30 Jan 2015 Migration By Tina Morrison
  NZ migration surged to record in 2014, helped by robust economy Jan. 30 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand migration surged to a... more

Free new Kiwi workshops return for fresh season

23 Jan 2015 Migration
Newcomer settlement support agency Auckland Regional Migrant Services (ARMS) is kick-starting the New Year with the return of its ... more

Travel

Air NZ sees fare discounts; yield pressure looms

25 Feb 2015 Travel & Tourism
By Fiona Rotherham Feb. 25 (BusinessDesk) - The only cloud on Air New Zealand’s horizon in coming months will be yield ... more

Air NZ posts higher normalised earnings

25 Feb 2015 Travel & Tourism
Article - BusinessDesk   Air NZ posts higher normalised earnings By Fiona Rotherham Feb. 25 (BusinessDesk) - Air New Zealand... more

Sport

2015 NZL Sailing Team Announced

25 Feb 2015 Sailing
Yachting New Zealand has named 15 campaigns in the 2015 NZL Sailing Team. All are chasing the ultimate goal of Olympic glory in... more

All Blacks Tours to South Africa on sale now

25 Feb 2015 Rugby
The All Blacks are set to return to South Africa this July to take on the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. This will be the... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell: Are NZ troops the least of IS’s problems?

25 Feb 2015 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
Gordon Campbell on whether New Zealand troops are the least of Islamic State’s problems   Given that it has been ... more

Gordon Campbell on drip-fed info about the Iraq deployment

24 Feb 2015 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
Gordon Campbell on the drip-feeding of information about the Iraq deployment   There are two ways of framing the story of our... more

Kiwi Success

New Consul-General to Sydney

20 Feb 2015 Appointments
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has named diplomat Billie Moore as New Zealand’s new Consul-General in Sydney. "Ms Moore will... more

New Ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU

20 Feb 2015 Appointments
New Zealand Government New Ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU Foreign Minister Murray McCully has named diplomat Bruce Shepherd as ... more

Recruitment

Workforce skills target lifted

19 Feb 2015 Recruitment
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says better-than-expected Better Public Services results mean the ... more

Strong job growth and record labour market participation

4 Feb 2015 Recruitment
The latest labour market data shows continuing strong employment growth with 80,000 more jobs added to the New Zealand economy in ... more