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

Better government digital services on way as plan approved

31 Jul 2014 News
All government agencies now have a shared plan to deliver more and better digital public services. Eight agencies have been working... more

Labour announces unemployment policy

30 Jul 2014 Politics
Labour’s intention to increase the minimum wage to two-thirds of the average wage would hurt business, cost jobs and reduce ... more

Business

NZ exporters should think premium in targeting China

31 Jul 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   NZ exporters should market more premium products to boost China sales, Boyd says By Tina Morrison July ... more

PledgeMe, Snowball Effect gain equity crowd-funding licences

31 Jul 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   FMA approves equity crowdfunding licence to PledgeMe and Snowball Effect By Suze Metherell July 31 ... more

Living

Kiwi Beer and Cider to Star at Edinburgh Festival

31 Jul 2014 Food & Wine
Iconic Kiwi beer and cider brands, Monteith’s and Old Mout, will take centre stage at the 2014 Edinburgh International... more

Cliff Curtis’ Startling Confession in Mana Magazine

28 Jul 2014 Lifestyle
The new-look Mana magazine includes a story on Hollywood star and Rotorua local, Cliff Curtis. The famously versatile actor talks... more

Property

NZ house sales fall in June, led by cheaper properties

14 Jul 2014 Property By Suze Metherell
July 14 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand house sales fell in June from a year earlier, led by properties of $400,000 or less, indicating... more

Average Auckland house prices reach record level

10 Jul 2014 Property
The average asking price for a home in Auckland has reached the record level of 732 thousand, 240 dollars. The figure is provided by... more

Migration

UK Tier 1 visa extension deadline looming

11 Jul 2014 Migration
If you’re in the UK on a Tier 1 (General) visa, you’ll need to apply for an extension as soon as possible. The deadline... more

NZ more appealing to ex-pats - survey

10 Jul 2014 Migration
Auckland and Wellington have become more appealing to ex-pats in the past 12 months, a new survey has found. Both cities both dropped... more

Travel

NZ leaves lasting impression on English Premier League teams

29 Jul 2014 Travel & Tourism
27 Jul 2014 West Ham United may have endured a torrid time on the pitch during their time in New Zealand for the Football United... more

Cycleways bring economic benefit to communities

24 Jul 2014 Travel & Tourism
An increasing number of cycleways are attracting tourists to regions and scenic parts of New Zealand and a special session at the... more

Sport

2014 Commonwealth Games: ADAMS FIRST TO 600 - OF COURSE!

31 Jul 2014 Commonwealth Games
In the end it came down to a race between two of the more physically imposing members of the New Zealand team – shot putter... more

2014 GLASGOW: GOLD FOR BOYLE AND PASCOE

30 Jul 2014 Commonwealth Games
Auckland swimmer Lauren Boyle bounced back from last night’s disappointment to win the women’s 400m freestyle gold medal... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on Gaza and burning the Israeli flag

24 Jul 2014 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
One of the selling points in New Zealand’s campaign for a temporary seat on the Security Council is that we have a pluckily... more

7 highly effective habits to stay healthy at work

23 Jul 2014 Column By Tricia Alach
The holistic helper's guide to wellbeing and work: part eight Like all good reports, my Wellbeing and Work series comes with an... more

Kiwi Success

Hon.Judith Collins announces appointments to Public Trust Board

23 Jul 2014 Appointments
New Zealand Government Appointments to Public Trust Board   Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the appointment of ... more

NZ Government Minister Foss announces commerce reappointments

23 Jul 2014 Appointments
Commerce Minister Craig Foss today announced four reappointments to various independent Crown entities and statutory... more

Recruitment

3K to Christchurch working for Jobseekers

31 Jul 2014 Recruitment
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says 157 people across the country have so far taken up the Government’s 3K to ... more

200 more training places for graduate nurses

30 Jul 2014 Recruitment
Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced the government will fund up to 200 additional training places for nurse graduates next... more