Do you like your wine red, white or green?

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Boxed gifts look nice, but are they really worth the cost – environmentally?

I have to confess I’ve had a tendency to hoard gift boxes the way a squirrel hoards nuts. I love the nifty and often beautiful boxes that perfumes, wines and so on come in and with optimistic delusion that if I carefully tuck them in the cupboard, I’ll find a way to repurpose them, but of course I rarely do so they just sit there gathering dust.

So with the festive season approaching and gift packaging ramping up, I was pleased to see Champagne Telmont urging their industry to end gift packaging. The French winemaker, which has actively campaigned for a more sustainable future through its ‘In the Name of Mother Nature’ project, eliminated all gift packaging from their bottles in 2021. Their award-winning Réserve Brut is being released for this season as the ‘No Gift Box Unlimited Edition’.

It seems only fitting that actor, wine lover and environmental activist, Leonardo DiCaprio has recently invested in Champagne Telmont, in support of their commitment to better the planet. ‘From protecting biodiversity on its land, to using 100% renewable electricity, Champagne Telmont is determined to radically lower its environmental footprint, making me proud to join as an investor’ says Leo.

Unfortunately for Australian champagne drinkers, Telmont has banned air transportation for all its distribution since July 2021. From 2024, Telmont champagnes bound for the United States will be aboard Neoline ships, wind-powered maritime transport which benefits from a lower CO2 emission factor, but there is no word yet on how the Australian market will be serviced. We can’t produce champagne here, but we have a vast choice in fabulous vintages that don’t have the taint of excessive “food miles” on their environmental footprint.

Aussie winemakers are definitely answering the call to find more sustainable packaging solutions, so whether you are looking for gifts or wines to serve during the festive season, check out the green credentials of our local vignerons!

When you hear about sustainability in the wine industry, the first thing that comes to mind may be organic farming practices, but the less photogenic aspects of the production process, like packaging, actually have more impact.

So putting aside the momentary pleasure you might get from receiving a nifty box or other decorative frippery, how would you feel about wine that isn’t in a glass bottle? A wild concept, I know!

Keep in mind that around 40 per cent of the carbon footprint of each bottle of wine is due to the use of glass. And of the 1.3 million tonnes of glass discarded in Australia each year, only 46 per cent can actually be recovered. And of that recovered glass, not much will be suitable for use in wine bottles.

But what about all those connoisseurs who traditionally like to cellar their bottles for years, surely they should be able to use glass bottles? Yes, but that’s only 15% of the market – 85% of us buy wine to drink pretty much straight away.

And on the subject of tradition, glass bottles are a 19th century technology, yet materials science has come a long way, so it makes sense to adapt new, greener practices on offer.

For example, remember the fuss when screw caps were introduced? Australian wineries were early adopters of that technology, despite the squeals from traditionalists. Now the use of corks seems pretty old-school, although some people still seem to miss the thrill of waiting to see if their expensive drop has turned to vinegar or not and persist with the unnecessary ritual in restaurants of tasting the wine before giving the waiter an authoritative nod to confirm that indeed, the screw cap hasn’t perished during cellaring.

So what would you think if someone gave you a good wine, but instead of giving you a glass bottle, it was an aluminium can, a plastic bottle or a BIB (bag in a box, not to be confused with a goon bag! Ah, those were the days). These alternatives are still struggling to get a foothold in the market, but luckily some consumers, especially the younger demographic, are open to the new containers, partly because they are innovative but also because the environmental appeal is strong.

We are yet to see the aluminium cottles (a hybrid can/bottle) but two South Australian wineries; Banrock Station and Taylors Wines are using the Eco bottle which is made here in Australia from recycled PET plastic.
The Eco bottle weighs 83 per cent less than a traditional glass wine bottle and takes up half the space, which means lower emissions transporting them from the winery to retail shelves.

The environmental advantages fit with both brands’ aspirations. Banrock Station has a 25-year history of sustainable grape and wine production, and Taylors Wine also has excellent environmental credentials and was an early adopter of screwcaps on all its wines.

Over the last 20 years, Banrock Station has contributed to over 130 environmental projects across 13 countries, from maintaining wetlands in the Riverland to protecting the turtles in the Great Barrier Reef and supporting polar bear and orangutan rehabilitation. In 2021 the company teamed up with Landcare Australia on a project to plant 100,000 native trees and shrubs every year. We’ll cheers to all of that!

Taylors Wines have also been busy implementing greener practices. They were the first winery in the world to launch a 100% carbon neutral wine range and all their packaging elements are 100% recyclable.

So whether you are looking to purchase a nice bottle of wine as a gift or to stock up on supplies for entertaining, ditch the fancy packaging. The earth will thank you.

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