How to make wine more sustainable

It’s time to start thinking about how eco-friendly your fave glass of wine is

Regenerative farming, food waste, the sustainability of certain produce…..all things that there has been a lot of buzz about, rightly so, but what about the stuff that’s in your glass, not just what ends up on your plate? Yes, it’s now wine’s turn in the sustainable spotlight. Here’s how to make sure that no matter what colour vino you’re drinking, it’s green.

Go natural

Natural, biodynamic, low-intervention – this wine wears many labels (only arty ones on the bottles though please) but whatever you want to call it, this is wine that’s generally produced at a smaller scale, using organic grapes and without the use of chemicals. There’s also much more focus from the winemakers on the soil used to grow the grapes, working to increase its biodiversity and its ability to absorb carbon through regenerative methods. Many choose to hand harvest the grapes, rather than using machinery, to further protect the health of the vines and the soil.

The wine still has to get from the vineyard to your yard, which involves racking up a carbon footprint, but there are still huge benefits thanks to the sustainable practices used in its production. London is fit to bursting with natural wine bars and you can drink your way round them with ease with the natural wine bar guide from Sausage Press.

Crack open the cans, boxes and flat bottles

Wine that comes in anything other than a bottle hasn’t always had the best reputation – there’s been a lot of cheap rubbish put into cans and bags, just as anyone who’s cracked open a warm wine on day four of Glastonbury or spent nights drinking goon in an Aussie hostel. Thankfully times have changed. Wine producers have wised up to the sustainability benefits of swapping glass bottles for different packaging, namely that cans and flat bottles are lighter, boxes are easier to recycle and the bags inside them keep wine fresher for longer minimising wastage.

According to a Gaia Consulting report, 330ml cans of wine generate 2.5 times less CO2 than traditional bottles, so they’re better for the planet as well as being easier to transport. The big supermarkets are all getting in on the action but our faves are the ranges from Banks Brothers and VincaMirabeau’s Rosé to GoQuello Sparkling Wine and Wild Steps’ Malbec.

The quality of boxed wine is better than ever, thanks to brands like Weino BIB, the Dalston wine bar that champions mostly natural bag-in-box vino (and also offers refills too), and the BIB Wine Company, which only works with small, independent producers. Not only does BIB wine come with lower packaging costs, the boxes require less energy to recycle, and the bags keep the wine inside fresh for much longer – ideal if you only want a glass at a time.

When In Rome is one biz doing it all when it comes to alt-packaging, doing Italian wine in bag-in-box, cans, and flat recycled PET bottle formats, which create ten times less CO2 emissions in production than traditional packaging. And that’s not all; When In Rome is working towards full climate transparency by introducing carbon labelling on their products, partnering with CarbonCloud to demonstrate the carbon footprint of their goods, looking at emissions at every single stage from agriculture to distribution to the point the wine hits the shop shelves.

Turn on the tap

If you’re not ready to join the can crew or BIB club, there’s still an eco way to get your wine in glass and that’s by reusing and refilling. There are lots of wine shops across the city, like Yield N16, Made in Little France, Bottle, Forest Wines and BOB Wines, where you can refill your own bottles from wines on tap. Most of the shops that offer refills have vino on tap for you to drink in as well as to take home but there are several bars and restaurants in London that are also turning on the taps. Idris Elba’s wine bar Porte Noire in King’s Cross, which boasts around 800 bins on its list, has wines on tap; Tap & Bottle in London Bridge has a rotating selection of wine tap lines; Rondo at The Hoxton, Holborn has vino from several of Europe’s most exciting winemakers on tap; and Half Cut Market, which showcases low-intervention producers, is also pouring from taps.

Once something purists would have turned their noses up at, wine on tap actually has so many benefits it’s odd that it’s not even more popular. Not only does tap wine mean speedier service and better value (as the costs the producers and the venues save on filling and shipping can be passed onto the customer), the quality can be guaranteed for longer too as the steel kegs the wine is stored in protects the liquid from oxygen and light. It scores several sustainability points too, as less bottles, corks and boxes need to be produced and the kegs can be reused multiple times.

Uncharted Wines, which started doing wines on tap for a handful of London restaurants in 2017 now supplies over 100 venues with kegged wines, with over 60 different styles in their range. Just one of their 20L kegs hold 26.67 bottles worth of wine, cutting the storage footprint in half and removing the need for 16kg of glass and 1.6kg of cardboard. They even have in-built cooling in their systems, so there’s no need to refrigerate any of their wines, so there’s even more saving on space and energy usage.

Keep it local

There’s no need to have wine racking up the miles and the carbon footprints by having it transported to you, not when you can go and get it at the source. There are several excellent vineyards within easy reach of London but you don’t even have to leave zone 3 to get your hands on the goods as there are actually a couple of wineries right here in the city.

Inside a Walthamstow industrial unit isn’t the first place you’d look for a winery but it’s where you’ll find Renegade. Its model of buying grapes from across Europe and the UK and turning them to wine in London means its wines change year on year depending on the grapes, so every bottle (complete with the iconic face labels) is special. South London peeps don’t have to cross the river to get a glass of London wine, they only need to head for the Battersea railway arches (seems to be a theme doesn’t it?). Blackbook sources its grapes from growers that are just hours away from the city, focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir, with an experimental release every now and then. You can tour the urban winery, have a tasting and then stock up on bottles.

Buy Excess

We’re all familiar with surplus food and making dishes from leftover or waste ingredients but did you know the same thing applies to wine? Many winemakers end up with excess wine for a number of reasons – they could be contending with a bumper crop or they might be struggling to drum up enough demand – and if that leftover vino isn’t blended into low quality bulk wines, it goes to waste. The French government spent €200m destroying hundreds of millions of litres of surplus wine in the summer of 2023, so as well as the wine going down the drain, money isn’t far behind it.

Enter Wasted Wine Club. Founded winemaker by Angelo van Dyk, the new collaborative label teams up with independent winemakers around the world who have excess wine on their hands to create one-off bottlings that are sold directly to customers. So far Wasted Wine Club have produced four wines – a Chenin Blanc & Semillon and a Cinsault from Alexandra McFarlane and a Pinotage and a Syrah from Angus Paul – putting quality leftover juice to good use.

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