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Green Teams

Winegrowers band together to address environmental challenges and ensure long-term success

The existential and economic threats of 2020 didn’t stop wineries from pressing ahead with critical environmental and social initiatives.

On the contrary, even throughout the pandemic shutdowns, the wine community found opportunities to collaborate across borders and make remarkable strides—all while coping with complex health and safety restrictions, new approaches to selling wine with restaurants and tasting rooms closed, trade wars that wrenched global distribution and massive wildfires in the U.S. and Australia.

“The best premium companies must stand up and lead by example in the fight to prevent damaging changes in the wine regions of the world,” says Miguel Torres Maczassek, general manager of Spain- and Chile–based Familia Torres, which is involved in multiple partnerships related to sustainable winegrowing. “We have to work together so that our future generation can keep producing wines that reflect the terroir with excellence.”

Profiled below are some of the new and notable wine-industry collaborations that have made significant progress in the past year on one or more aspects of sustainability, including environmental responsibility, social equity and economic viability.

Wherever you look in the world of wine, you’ll find many more inspiring examples to celebrate.

International Wineries for Climate Action
Aim: Spur wineries to take substantial action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Winery Partners: Familia Torres and California-based Jackson Family Wines, cutting-edge companies in carbon-reduction efforts, formed this global group in 2019 to share innovative science-based strategies. The plan is to bring together like-minded wine companies with the resources to experiment and demonstrate what can be done, and the clout to influence others.

In early 2020, Spottswoode Estate in Napa, Symington Family Estates in Portugal, VSPT Wine Group in Chile, and Yealands Wine Group in New Zealand became co-participants. They have since been joined by California’s Silver Oak; the Alma Carraovejas winery and restaurant group in Spain; Cullen Wines in Australia; and Bodega Emina of Spain’s Matarromera group.

The Project: Each participating company commits to slashing its total carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and to become “climate positive” by 2050. That means they will remove more carbon dioxide than they produce from not only their own direct emissions but also the energy they purchase and the “indirect” emissions from their supply chain. The latter includes products they purchase (such as barrels and bottles), business travel and employee commuting, transport of their wines and waste disposal.

Within five years of joining the group, companies must be powered by at least 20% renewable energy from their own property, undergo annual third-party audits of their direct and indirect greenhouse-gas emissions, and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 25% per unit of wine from a baseline measurement.

To achieve all this, they need to find solutions in their own vineyard and winery operations, as opposed to purchasing carbon credits to offset their emissions.

The partners determined a standardized system for wineries to track their direct and indirect emissions and have that data verified by a third party. Using such data, the group can evaluate the areas that are driving the most emissions and identify opportunities to counteract them, such as a broad-scale push to use lighter-weight glass bottles. They are also evaluating ways to counter emissions they can’t eliminate.

“We did a rough analysis of all the land we own, whether planted or unplanted, and the results were that we would be able to sequester more carbon than we emit as a company each year [using] reforestation, riparian corridor enhancement and other ecosystem enhancement projects on our land,” explains Katie Jackson, vice president of sustainability at Jackson Family.

Familia Torres’ winery in Pacs del Penedès

Familia Torres’ winery in Pacs del Penedès features a solar-powered electric train, and a biomass boiler that make use of vine-cuttings. The company generates at least 25% of its energy itself, from renewable sources.

What’s Next: The initiative is looking at ways to bring in more members, including a streamlined emissions calculator that would make the process more accessible to smaller wineries with fewer resources and outreach to other organizations focused on climate change.

“I hope we will have more than 200 wineries, especially the most representative ones of each country, as full members in five years,” says co-founder Miguel A. Torres, president of Familia Torres, who has long worked to inspire action on climate change within and beyond the wine industry. “It would be great to see also other sectors starting a similar initiative to implement carbon emissions–reduction programs.”

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