It often feels these days as though we’re living in the age of nonstop existential crises… and if you’re feeling as though the state of the 21st century is driving you to drink, you’re probably not alone in this!
We talk in jest, of course (mostly), but thanks to the advent of smartphones and social media, it’s virtually impossible to escape what’s going on in the wider world - particularly when it comes to climate change.
Of course, knowledge is power as they say and being constantly confronted with the climate doom cycle has naturally led to heightened awareness among consumers, who are becoming increasingly keen to embrace sustainability across the board… even when it comes to wine drinking!
As with anything, wine production has an impact on the environment and this has become more problematic over the years, with the industry now dominated by harmful practices such as the use of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilisers.
The industrialisation and commercialisation of wine-growing is in large part to blame for this destruction of natural ecosystems, as growers strive to stay afloat in an evermore competitive market.
Use of synthetics, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and so on have become the norm in a bid to cut production costs, save on labour and ensure that grape yields are consistently high, but this has taken its toll on the environment, with regions all over the world similarly affected.
In France, for example, bird populations have suffered as a result of continued pesticide use, with a decline of 400 million seen in the last 30 years or so. It’s not that the birds themselves are being poisoned, but rather that insect numbers have fallen by 80 per cent, so there’s less food to go around.
Although wine-making’s carbon footprint is relatively low compared to other intensive industries like aviation or energy, it does still cause extensive environmental damage, as well as contributing to global warming, through biodiversity reduction, groundwater contamination, soil degradation and the release of CO2 during the fermentation process.
Luckily, the answer for all you eco-conscious wine drinkers out there isn’t to give up your favourite tipples. It’s simply to make the switch to natural wine!
Natural winegrowers (or vignerons, as you’ll often hear them called) make sure that biodiversity and polycultural practices are at the very heart of all they do. A range of different crops and animals all coexist on natural wine farms, with the aim being to support the wines and ensure that they continue to serve as a true-blue reflection of their region’s terroir.
These natural vineyards are different region to region, but they all adopt similar approaches for grass and pest management, without using herbicides, encouraging a natural balance between predators and prey so pests sort themselves out, and using minimal copper and sulphur treatments, as well as minimal natural fertilisers.
The end result is a delicious drink that serves as a true expression of the region in which it is grown, without disrespecting the natural environment and destroying local biodiversity. It’s a win-win for all!