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Wine Society outlines bold new sustainable initiatives

Published:  21 September, 2023

The Wine Society is to further its sustainable credentials with both a producer-focused insetting fund and a drive to 100% lighter weight glass across its portfolio.

The moves were announced at a press dinner – the first such event for the mutual members’ merchant – flagging the ongoing progress being made with regards to sustainability.

The insetting fund, with a working title Nature and Climate Fund, is to be offered annually from 2024 and made available upon application to a limited number of wineries.

    • Read more: Wine Australia targets 40% emissions reduction by 2030

Details of the fund are still being fine-tuned, but it will be offered for projects encouraging the likes of regenerative viticultural practices and boosting biodiversity, with carbon sequestration at the forefront of the initiative.

“We believe that healthy soil is one of the best possibilities for nature-based carbon reduction given it has the potential to hold one-third of all the carbon emitted across the globe,” said head of buying, Pierre Mansour (pictured).

“Our fund will be used to invest in projects that help sequester carbon and boost biodiversity in vineyards, such as planting of trees or supporting regenerative farming practices.”

The light-weighting of glass has already been embraced by the Society, with 40% of the still wine range bottles already below 420g, but with incremental targets now revealed that aim to push this figure to 100% by the 2027 vintage.

“We invested in some research with the Sustainable Wine Roundtable which found that there is no practical reason why all still wines shouldn’t be below 420g over the next few years,” said Mansour.

“We’re confident of achieving our targets because we just completed this exercise with our Society own label range, which reduced the average weight from 434g down to 413g, removing 38 tonnes of glass and saving 33 tCO2e a year – this demonstrated that producers are willing.”

This proceeds an anticipated industry-wide announcement on light-weighting glass in the coming weeks, with the Society complimenting its own action with plans to also move some of its range to alternative formats.

“We are also planning to move some of the range to other formats (BIB, cans, PET) which combined with light weighting is forecast to reduce our packaging emissions by around 60% by 2032,” said Mansour.

He added: “The Wine Society approach is quite simple, we use two criteria, taste and value, and now we’re moving to three criteria, sustainability – what sustainable credentials a producer might have and what steps they might be taking.”

Mansour also revealed formative plans for buying and holding more museum stock of diverse wines, saying “we have an opportunity for selling aged wines”, with Greece’s Xinomavro and Austrian whites among those styles in his sights.

The Wine Society, which currently has around 175,000 active members (those buying at least once a year) out of 250,000 signed up, replenishes its portfolio with the purchase of some 3,500 different wines each year. CEO Steve Finlan, also present, outlined a need to appeal to “a younger demographic of wine-interested 35-45 year olds”, with the above moves hoped to help that ambition along.