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

Support for kiwi, not moas, in Rimutaka

18 Jul 2014 News
The Government today announced a $70,000 Community Conservation Partnership Fund grant for the Rimutaka Forest Park Trust to ensure... more

Coleman to meet China’s top military officer

18 Jul 2014 News
New Zealand Government Coleman to meet China’s top military officer Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman will hold talks on Monday... more

Business

Moa boosts first quarter sales, expects higher margins

22 Jul 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Moa boosts first quarter sales, expects higher margins to drive profits By Tina Morrison July 22 ... more

Hon. Steven Joyce: Better public services for businesses

21 Jul 2014 Business News
A single unique number for every business and a range of new services that reduce the need for businesses to provide the same ... more

Living

Anti-mining campaign doco debuts at NZ Film Festival

22 Jul 2014 Entertainment
Playing at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, Cap Bocage is a close-up exploration of the forces that came... more

Inbetweeners 2 Cast Heads Down under for NZ Premiere

22 Jul 2014 Lifestyle
The stars of this year’s most anticipated comedy, The Inbetweeners 2 will head to New Zealand next month as part of the... 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

100% Middle-Earth campaign wins prestigious travel award

17 Jul 2014 Travel & Tourism
Associate Tourism Minister Todd McClay has congratulated Tourism New Zealand on winning the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s... more

NZ guest nights at three-year high

10 Jul 2014 Travel & Tourism By Suze Metherell
July 10 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand guest nights climbed to a three-year high in May as short term stays climbed across all... more

Sport

Fellowes and Hazeldine Sign for EasiYo Tactix

22 Jul 2014 Netball
EasiYo Tactix are delighted to announce the signing of experienced defender Demelza Fellowes (formerly McCloud) and versatile... more

Heat’s on for open water masters swimmers

22 Jul 2014 Sport
With local temperatures dipping to winter lows, more than 80 Kiwi swimmers are taking off to Samoa this week, to take on warmer open... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on the non-apology to Tania Billingsley, PM John Key

22 Jul 2014 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
  The refusal by Prime Minister John Key to issue a personal apology to Tania Billingsley has been accompanied by an array of... more

Gordon Campbell on the failure to prosecute the GCSB

18 Jul 2014 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
So one hand of the state – the Independent Police Conduct Authority - has now washed the hands of its brother agencies, and... more

Kiwi Success

Minister announces ACC Board appointments

8 Jul 2014 Appointments
New Zealand Government Minister announces ACC Board appointments ACC Minister Judith Collins today announced the appointment of ... more

Air NZ boss Luxon to sit on Virgin board

4 Jul 2014 Appointments By Suze Metherell
July 4 (BusinessDesk) - Air New Zealand boss Christopher Luxon has been appointed to Virgin Australia's board alongside its fellow... more

Recruitment

750 additional Trades Academy places for 2015

14 Jul 2014 Recruitment
New Zealand Government   Hon Steven Joyce Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Hon Hekia Parata Minister of... more

Take a dip into global talent pool

9 Jul 2014 Recruitment
International candidates can bring added value, says recruitment specialist New Zealand's thriving economy has created a "unique... more