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Bordeaux Aims to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 20 Percent

The Bordeaux wine industry seeks to slow global warming and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by 2020

Diana Macle
Posted: February 20, 2009

Following in the footsteps of Champagne, the Bordeaux Wine Trade Board (CIVB) evaluated the local wine industry's carbon footprint in 2008 in conjunction with the European Union's 2020 Climate Plan, which calls for cutting carbon emissions across the continent by 20 percent by the year 2020. Now that the results of the study are in, the Bordelais have pledged to make their own one-fifth reduction in emissions by the end of the next decade.

A recently concluded nine-month inventory of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the Bordeaux wine industry's various activities, from grapegrowing to worldwide shipping, indicated that it produces some 203,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Much of this output is linked to the fabrication and transportation of bottles and cardboard boxes, as well as the fuel used by tractors in the vineyards.

The CIVB has outlined recommendations to reduce those emissions by 20 percent before 2020, focusing equally on energy conservation and water savings. However, it will be up to the good will of Bordeaux's vintners and distributors to implement these measures—neither incentives nor penalties have been established.

When it comes to vineyard practices, the trade board strongly urges growers to switch to environmentally friendly machinery and cut back on the use of chemical fertilizers and treatments. A study is also underway to examine how discarded vine shoots can be converted into a form of in-house, nonpolluting energy. Other solutions include making bottles lighter and improving upon the manufacture of glass and cardboard packaging.

"About a quarter of emissions are generated by bottles," said CIVB technical service director Laurent Charlier. "If we reduce their weight by 15 percent, we can decrease the total output by 5 percent."

Ways to promote shipping from the port of Bordeaux are currently being considered to limit emissions caused by transportation of exported wine. Only 10 percent of Bordeaux wine is exported through its local port, as many wines leave France via Le Havre, a port in Normandy, where the wines arrive by truck. "At present, the wine industry hardly uses its local port, as ex-cellar contracts are the norm, meaning the shipping details are entirely handled by the receiving end," said Laurence Bouchardie, spokesperson for the port of Bordeaux. The CIVB hopes to increase maritime shipping, which generates 5.5 percent less CO2 than ground transportation.

Going green usually requires investments by wine producers, but the changes can translate to savings in the long run. St.-Julien's Château Lagrange is among the forerunners in Bordeaux, having taken steps to reduce its level of emissions since 2005.

"Our employees are taking lessons to learn the best way to drive vineyard machinery so as to no longer needlessly waste fuel, and we encourage carpooling," said Lagrange's quality manager, Gervaise Ruton. The château is also recycling its vine shoots into compost for the vineyard. In the cellar, its winemakers seek to eliminate the use of heated vats. "Changing may be costly for some, but this is the only rational way to go for the planet," Ruton said. "It's up to the prestigious properties to set an example."

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