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Fine wine policy institute releases global sustainability report

Published:  03 October, 2022

Areni Global, a think tank dedicated to the future of fine wine, has released a ground-breaking report examining the major threats, and opportunities, facing the sector today.

Entitled ‘12 Conversations: Different Ways of Looking at Sustainability’, the report is ambitious in both its scope and remit. The main body of research is based on numerous interviews conducted with industry leaders about environmental, social and financial sustainability.

In addition, the report pulls together conversations and debates recorded at various conferences in 2022, including Moët Hennessy’s World Living Soil Forum, a two-day event that took place in June in Arles-en-Provence. According to the report, “Over two packed days, scientists, wine professionals, economists and other professionals examined soil and the role it plays in the ecosystem.”

Much of Areni Global's research focuses on sustainable agriculture. Professor Tim Benton, research director at the Chatham House policy institute, takes the lead in the report by observing that “agriculture is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, second only to the energy sector. It’s also a leading driver of biodiversity loss. But without agriculture, we die. How can these facts possibly be reconciled?”

Continuing the theme, winemaker Mimi Casteel (holder of a Masters in Forest Science and Biology) discusses the regenerative viticulture movement in major section of the report.

“We are coming to recognise that single species cropping systems are very detrimental to the landscape, and we need to start challenging the paradigms that we’ve created with industrial agriculture systems and start building layers of ecosystems that also produce food,” Casteel said.

“The idea with regenerative agriculture is to start rebuilding that ecosystem within the agricultural system. Adding layers of photosynthetic and hydrologic capacity to a landscape can be as simple as adding different layers of plant life. The idea would be to start incorporating a tree layer. While it might sound very idealistic to have our grapevines growing up trees, that is how they evolved. We can mimic that by just adding trees into the system.”

Paul Luu, executive secretary of the 4 per 1000 Initiative, added: “If we increase the quantity of carbon in the soil by 0.4% each year, we may theoretically offset the additional carbon that human activity releases into the atmosphere every year.” The organisation was founded in 2015, with the aim of lobbying for enhanced soil health in the fight against climate change.

However, Areni’s research also highlighted the lack of coordinated action from the sector, while sustainability remains a loosely defined and widely interpreted movement.

“We all agree that sustainability is about making the world of wine a better place, but we have no common agreement about exactly what that entails, or which elements should be prioritized,” said Pauline Vicard, CEO of Areni.

Nigel Greening, owner of Felton Road winery in Otago, was also asked to contribute his thoughts on the future of sustainability across the wine industry.

“There’s this label: ‘sustainability’. It means nothing. It has no definition, but it sounds good,” said Greening.

“And we have a real difficulty, in that people think sustainability and climate change are the same thing, and they’re not. Climate change is an emergency. Climate change is someone having a heart attack and sustainability is coming up and lecturing them about healthy diets. We need instant, hard urgent action. I’m looking for emergency solutions. What can I do the quickest?”

You can access the full report here.