Sustainable Practices — The Future of Viticulture

By Colm O’Neill

With each glass of wine, we are tasting and celebrating the land from which the grape has grown. Knowing that this land has been treated with care and respect makes this experience all the greater. A recent study which collected data from 298 wineries and vineyards across the U.S. and Europe found that innovative sustainable practices are being adopted in ever-growing numbers, in a wholesale effort to meet the public demand that we protect our environment in every way possible.

The use of pesticides in the production of wine has resulted in serious harm to insect life; insect life that has traditionally served to protect vines against pests. New practices are being introduced to serve the same purpose as pesticides but without the environmental impact. Among these are the introduction of biocontrol plants, which serve to attract predatory insects that eat vine pests, and the use of pheromone traps, which confuse and incapacitate these pests, but do not kill them.

Such practices succeed in two important ways. Firstly, they reduce the harmful emissions of pesticide use, which pollute the environment and cause damage to the soil and surrounding ecosystem. Secondly, they do not interfere with the natural order of insect life. A pest which damages a grape vine may play a very important role in another element of the local ecology. Allowing these ecosystems to function as nature intended is the first step in allowing our planet to begin to heal itself.

The ways in which viticulture has embraced sustainability extend beyond the processes of wine production. Even in the world of packaging and distribution, new steps are being taken to combat environmental damage. The growing popularity of canned wines is one clear indicator that vineyards are responding to public concern for the wellbeing of our planet.

The use of aluminum cans reflects the growing desire to bring the wine industry into the twenty-first century. The recycling processes of aluminum cans are far more effective and widespread than the equivalent processes for glass bottles. Facilities for recycling aluminum are typically far more commonplace and accessible than facilities for recycling glass, leading to a much higher rate of recycling for cans than bottles. What’s more, because of the ease and speed of this recycling process, most aluminum cans on the market today are made from 100% recycled materials.

Wine has existed for thousands of years, but that does not mean that the methods we use to produce and package wine cannot belong to the modern age. With the innovations taking place in the world of wine, anyone can now enjoy a glass of their favorite wine and feel secure in the knowledge that massive steps continue to be taken to ensure that this industry will treat our planet with the respect it deserves.