100% Cork and the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) launched a series of virtual educational seminars to address sustainability in the wine industry with the goal of better understanding what it means, what the challenges are, and how the industry can improve.
The seminars feature leading voices from all sides of the industry, including wine producers, Masters of Wine, retailers and environmental certifications, alongside forestry and packaging experts. Discussion topics focus on the ways that sustainable practices and messaging are being implemented in the industry today, the future of sustainable forestry, the role of packaging in reducing the carbon impact of wine producers, and corporate responsibility to local communities.
"I'm excited to be working with prominent figures in wine to address some of the most pressing topics in the industry today," noted wine writer and educator Liza Zimmerman, who is moderating the seminars. "With the launch of the salon series we will be exploring and sharing sustainable practices and innovative concepts with the entire wine community as we look to the future of wine and winemaking in the U.S. and abroad."
For its first seminar, 100% Cork focused on the core question - why can't more entry-level wines be sustainable? The discussion covered consumer trends and challenges and emphasized how the industry can help support sustainability at the retail level, while also highlighting how certifications and environmentally friendly packaging choices can be presented to consumers to help them participate in sustainably focused buying choices.
The four-person panel of industry experts included Dr. Stephanie Bolton of the wine certification Lodi Rules, Benjamin Neyman of Shannon Family of Wines, Sandra Taylor of Sustainable Business International and Ryan Woodhouse of K&L Wine Merchants. The seminar can be viewed in its entirety here at the 100% Cork YouTube page. Dr. Bolton began the discussion by speaking about Lodi Rules and its sustainable certification program, which includes more than 70 registered wineries and 64,000 acres of vineyards across California, Washington and Israel. She defined sustainability as farming in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible while also being profitable or economically viable. Dr. Bolton said that many wineries are recognizing the value in vineyard certification and are paying farmers higher prices for their grapes. "The world is changing rapidly and we need to figure out ways to preserve our agriculture and our business," said Benjamin Neyman, the production and procurement manager at Shannon Family in Lake County, which is certified sustainable and will become certified organic this year. He noted that sustainability is different for wineries since they have to take energy use, packaging and CO2 emissions into account. Shannon Family is taking steps to lower its carbon footprint such as reducing the weight of its glass bottles, using regenerative and recyclable materials such as cork for closures, plus operating its own fleet of trucks to have control over the end-to-end wine production process.
According to Taylor, younger consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability and are willing to forgo convenience to purchase products that are sustainable. Taylor, who is the president and CEO of Sustainable Business International noted that there are actually numerous sustainable wines available for less than $20 even featuring cork as a stopper. While she believes that certification seals are beneficial, she said that "there is still a lot of confusion in the marketplace about what sustainability means and what wines are indeed sustainable." Woodhouse, the domestic wine buyer for K&L in California, believes that one of the biggest challenges for sustainable wine is connecting practices such as renewable energy, environmentally friendly packaging materials like cork and water management to wine quality. While he thinks that work still needs to be done, he noted that certified sustainability is a huge opportunity for inexpensive wines and emerging brands. Future 100% Cork salons will feature discussions on the importance of forests - particularly when it comes to the wine and spirits industry, why wine certifications matter in the age of climate change, and the essential role that recycling plays in sustainable wine and spirits packaging. As sustainability becomes an increasingly important topic for the wine industry, one way it can address its carbon footprint is through the use of traditional materials such as cork. As an organic material, cork is 100% renewable and recyclable making it a small but vital piece of the sustainability equation as the industry seeks to become more environmentally friendly.