Château George 7 Blanc
HAVING STARTED BY DIGGING INTO SUSTAINABILITY IN THE VINEYARD AND THE WINERY, PACKAGING WAS THE NEXT AREA TO UNWRAP.
Non livestock agriculture (cereals, forestry, vineyards etc) contribute about 10% to global greenhouse emissions but I have yet to find a figure that says how much of that is from vineyards. Research into the emissions from the average vineyard says around 36% are in the packaging. So as I set about bottling the Château George 7 Blanc, I looked into how best to do it - juggling what makes sense for the planet, the consumer and my business. Read my full blog on this here.
For each element, I asked the supplier for their input on their credentials and advice on how to recycle their products.
Here is the result:
About the Bottle
The positives of using glass is that it is inert and so it preserves wine yet doesn't interact with it; it can be recycled endlessly without losing its properties and the raw materials for glass are naturally occurring (sand, soda, ash, limestone). However, the energy needed to make it in the first place (because it needs to be heated to 1500 degrees during production) is the main negative which bumps up the carbon footprint enormously.
Green or brown bottles can have a higher % of recycled glass in them and using recycled glass saves 30% energy.The weight of the bottle has to be solid enough to withstand transport and avoid breakages (so as not to waste all the work that has gone into the wine) but does not need to be ultra-heavy.
I found a bottle manufacturer that is working on reducing direct & indirect energy consumed and reuse water through recirculation systems to reduce their fresh water consumption. They measure this year on year and publish the results. By using up-to-date furnaces, energy consumption can be cut dramatically and glass manufacturers can eventually eliminate C02 emissions by using energy from renewable bio-derived fuels, hydrogen or renewable electricity.
So the bottle I have used:
Produced locally so it didn't travel unnecessary miles
87% recycled glass
400g in weight which is about as light as I was advised to go to limit breakages
I explored other formats before choosing a bottle but a very important factor is whether you have the infrastructure in the wine community around you to enable using something different at a reasonable cost. It just wasn't feasible for one innovative package that I explored. I have made a wine that will last for up to 4 years so glass really was the preferred container. Plus it could be bottled here on-site. The target market, quantity produced & shelf-life ruled out Bag-in-box and cans.
Cork as a product is fab for the environment because the existence of cork forests are a carbon sink - the CO2 retention capacity of a cork oak forest can reach 14.7 tons per hectare per year. Putting that to one side, most wine bottle corks are one piece but for this wine we have experimented with new sustainable options. For the 2020 vintage, we chose a new product made from pure cork off-cuts, bound with a 100% plant-based polyol from a totally renewable source & beeswax that makes it elastic and fully watertight. For the 2021 vintage, we have also trialled a cork made from pure cork offcuts, also bound with vegetal polyols and glue made from grape waste (skins & pips).
Instead of printing on it with chemicals, we used a laser to mark the name. Corks take a long time to compost but can be recycled and mostly end up in flooring or flip-flops. sports trainers etc.
This one was a dilemma at first - aluminium is recycled at a higher temperature than tin, for example, but the latter is way more expensive. The aluminium top we cut off can be thrown directly in the recycling and
the aluminium capsule that is left around the neck of the bottle after opening is extracted at the glass recycling plant. Metal from wine capsules is most often recycled for use in the motor industry.
THE LABELS (FRONT & BACK)
We used recycled paper, produced locally and bleached using stones rather than chemicals. However, the normal fine finish was added so that if you put the bottle in an ice bucket for an extended period, the label doesn't disintegrate (this is standard for labels and I wasn't sure of the customer reaction if the labels disintegrated and couldn't be read). I would be keen for your feedback. This makes the label about 90% eco-friendly.
Inspired by my Mum's drawings of wild flowers, the label illustrates wild flowers that grow in and around the vines and the hedgerow that we planted in 2018 to boost biodiversity. Of the 13 varieties planted, a selection is illustrated here.
THE OUTER PACKAGING
The box manufacturer only uses paper from certified forests and 75% of the material used is from recycled fibre. I chose a simple brown cardboard box without any printing on it and closed it with paper tape so that the whole lot can be recycled easily. The insert is made of recycled cardboard and can be recycled again too. Very simple.