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Climate change a ‘strong threat’ for six out of 10 wineries

Published:  23 February, 2022

Sustainability is to form a “real pillar” of this year’s ProWein, with the challenge of matching economic sustainability with environmental goals acknowledged as a key issue for producers and trade alike.

Presenting the findings of the current ProWein Business Report, based on a Geisenheim survey of the industry undertaken in late 2021, the show’s organisers flagged up the need for producers and trade to act now, but also to communicate the necessary additional costs to consumers.

The global industry study, carried out by Geisenheim’s Institute for Wine and Beverage Business, found that the process of climate change was “a strong or very strong threat for six out of 10 producers”.

“Producers already feel the effects, they know what climate change is doing to them, as they are embedded in the environment,” said head of the institute, Professor Simone Loose, who opened the briefing.

The Report acknowledged that the covid-crisis, with its long tail of trouble for the on-trade, has made it harder for producers to be economically sustainable. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for producers to carry the additional cost and resource burden of embracing greater environmental sustainability.

However, this should remain a clear and firm goal in the face of climate change that will increasingly continue to impact wine production, argued Loose.

Producers and trade alike should be responsible for communicating the increased costs associated with certification and implementation of sustainable strategies and goals.

But the Report threw up interesting differences between the number of producers and the number of those in the trade that have embraced sustainable certification, pointing to some of the challenges ahead.

The New World – specifically California, New Zealand and South Africa – leads Europe on the sustainability front.

Some 50% of New World respondents said they were sustainably certified, and 15% were in the process of getting certified, with France close behind at 48%, with 10% in the process. However, others lagged, with Italy at 29%, ‘other Europe’ at 26%, Spain on 13% and Germany on just 9%.

More discrepancies appeared, centred on size, with large wineries and cooperatives – those with better resources and funding – most likely to be travelling down a certified sustainable path, with smaller producers behind.

The presentation also described a “two-speed trade”, with producers ahead of the trade that sells their wines.

“The trade is not so much a part of this, but they have to convince consumers of the value of sustainable wine,” said Loose.

“It is more expensive to produce sustainable wine, and pay for certification, so the consumer must be persuaded to pay for that.”

This, though, is also being hampered by two factors – namely greenwashing, and the sheer number of different sustainability schemes and accreditations found around the world, with the latter allowing room for the former in some instances.

Loose called – while admitting such an outcome was unlikely – for one all-encompassing, globally embraced certification scheme, to make it easier for consumers and trade alike in terms of communication, and to help prevent greenwashing.

“We need communication to the trade and consumer, but that is difficult when the information space is so cluttered,” said Loose. “The dream and desire of the industry is to have one standard.”

She summed up by describing “a shout for help” from the industry on what schemes to embrace, how best to communicate sustainability, how to implement best practice and what to do.