The Wine Law Shuffle – Changes in Austria

Lake Halsstatt

Lake Halsstatt

Good things are happening in Austria–and they mean changes in the wine law! As of June 14, 2016, a series of updates and revisions to the existing Wine Law of 2009 were passed. The resulting changes are a bit far-reaching, but I’ll do my best to simplify them, and present them one concept at a time.

#1: Changes in the appellations of the Burgenland Quality Wine Region: The subregions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland have been eliminated. In the future, Qualitätswein produced in these areas will be labeled with the regional appellation of Burgenland.

The only remaining subregions of Burgenland are the four DACs: Neusiedlersee DAC, Leithaberg DAC, Mittelburgenland DAC or Eisenberg DAC.

#2: Change in the name of the Süd-Oststeiermark subregion of Steiermark:  The Süd-Oststeiermark subregion of the Steiermark Quality Wine Region will now be known as Vulkanland Steiermark, in homage to its volcanic past.

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#3: Planned recognition of outstanding single vineyard sites: Plans are in place to legally designate certain high-quality single vineyards. Once designated as such, a wine may pronounce this designation on the label by the use of the term “Ried” before the name of the vineyard. Ried (plural: Rieden) is a term unique to Austria and is not used in Germany.

#4: Further designations for the Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental DACs: The wines of Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental DACs will be further classified according to a three-tier quality ladder, beginning with Regional, and moving up to Village and Single Vineyard wines. Each step “up the ladder” will specify minimum alcohol content as well as other quality indicators.

#5: Changes in the use of the term Ausbruch: The term “Ausbruch” will now be considered synonymous with the term Trockenbeerenauslese, defined as a level of the Prädikat requiring a minimum 30° KMW with the majority of the grapes affected by botrytis. Even more newsworthy is the fact that the term will only be allowed to be used in connection with the wines of the city of Rust, making the term a protected indication for Ruster Ausbruch. No other wines may use the term.

The Vienna State Opera House

The Vienna State Opera

#6: Changes in the laws concerning Austrian Sekt (Sparkling Wine): The new laws set out quality designations and strict regulations for Austrian sparkling with a designation of origin. These wines may be labeled as Austrian Sekt or Österreichischer Qualitätsschaumwein, and must specify one of the following quality terms: Klassik, Reserve, or Grosse Reserve. In the case of Klassik and Reserve wines, the region of origin many not be more specific than “Austria” (Österreich). In the case of Grosse Reserve wines, the region of origin may be a federal state and municipality or part of it and the term geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung (Protected Designation of Origin) or g.U. Grosse Reserve wines will be allowed to be labeled as a single vineyard (Ried) wine. Each of the quality designations– Klassik, Reserve, and Grosse Reserve–will have an accompanying set of standards as to methods of production, lees aging, alcohol minimums and styles.

For much more information, see the Wines of Austria website.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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Announcing Cava de Paraje Calificado!

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via http://www.crcava.es)

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via http://www.crcava.es)

On Monday, June 13th, the consejo regulador of the Cava DO held a press conference at a Barcelona landmark– el Palau de la Música Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music)–to announce to the world their new category of Cava DO wines, Cava de Paraje Calificado (Qualified Single Estate Cava).

This new category of sparkling wines (within the existing Cava DO) is reserved for single-vineyard, estate-produced wines. The intention of the category is to bring prestige to meticulously produced Cava, crafted from grapes from a “smaller area approved especially as extraordinary and unique for its soil and climate conditions.”

Wines bearing the seal of Single Estate Cava will need to abide by all of the basic rules of the Cava DO in regards to grape varieties, production methods, sweetness levels and the like, and will have the following more specific qualifications as well:

  • Vines must be at least 10 years old
  • Grapes must come from a vineyard whose entire production is dedicated to Single Estate Cava
  • Grapes must be hand-harvested and must be transported to the winery intact
  • Maximum production of 8,000 kg per hectare (equivalent to 8.8 tons per hectare [as opposed to 12 tons per hectare for other categories of Cava])
  • Musts may not be chaptalized or acidified
  • Minimum acidity 5.5 grams per liter (per cuvée)
  • Minimum of 36 months of sur lie (in-bottle) aging
  • Brut-level sweetness or drier
  • Complete traceability from vine to shelf
Photo via http://www.crcava.es

Photo via http://www.crcava.es

According to Pedro Bonet, chairman of the Cava Regulatory Board, Single Estate Cava “has been created in order to place cavas at the top of the quality wines pyramid and to do justice to its quality of this sparkling wine.” It not yet clear when we may expect to see Cava de Paraje Calificado on the shelf, but when we do, it will certainly be a reason to celebrate. Salud!

References/For more information:

Post authored Jane Nickles, your blog administrator: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

DOC Watch: Friuli

The town of Udine in F-V G

The town of Udine in F-V G

DOC watch!

Be alert, all ye students of wine…Italy’s 334th DOC region has been proposed! If it is approved, the Friuli DOC (which, just to keep things interesting, will also be known as the Friuli-Venezia Giulia DOC) will be Italy’s 334th  and Friuli’s 10th – as well as the 7th with the word “Friuli” in the name. (Lest we forget, Friuli-Venezia Giulia also has four DOCGs: Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG, Lison DOCG, Ramandolo DOCG, and Rosazzo DOCG.)

According to the online e-zine “Italian Wine Chronicle,” a region-wide DOC has been in the works for Friuli since the 1970s, and is now “almost a reality.” The proposal has now entered into a 60-day comment period, after which the Consortium of the Friuli Venezia Giulia DOCs will give their final approval to the new DOC. (After that, of course, will come the [most likely very long] period of waiting for EU approval). However, the Consortium is confident we may soon see Friuli DOC wines, perhaps upon the release of the region’s 2016 vintage.

Vineyards in Friuli

Vineyards in Friuli

The proposed Friuli DOC would cover all of the area in the southern portion of Friuli-Venezia Giulia; in other words, just about all of the area suitable for viticulture (the northern portion being taken up by the foothills and mountains of the Alps). The new DOC would not impact the existing DOCs, but will instead offer an alternative label as well as the possibility of making regionally-sourced DOC wines.

The Friuli DOC will likely be approved for dry whites, dry reds, and sparkling wines (Traditional Method or tank) from a long list of grape varieties. These styles of wine (as well as frizzante wines, rosés, and dessert wines) are produced in many parts of the region. There will be one style of wine unique to the Friuli DOC, however–the way the rules are written, the new DOC will be allowed to produced sparkling wines using the Ribolla Gialla grape variety (something which is not permitted in any of the existing DOCs or DOCGs in Friuli-Venezia Giulia)1

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The wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are not too well-known internationally, although fans of Italian wine would agree that they are among the most diverse, delicious, and impressive of Italian wines. The region is particularly renowned for its white wines, as well as its traditional orange wines and oxidized wines made from the indigenous Ribolla Gialla grape variety.

For the adventurous, here is some Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wine “not-so-trivia”:

  • What three DOC/DOCG regions in Friuli-Venezia Giulia are shared with the Veneto?
  • What type of wine is produced in the Ramandolo DOCG?
  • What type of wine is produced in the Rosazzo DOCG?
  • What (currently) are the six DOCs of Friuli-Venezia Giulia that have the word “Friuli” in their name?
  • Two of the DOCGs of Friuli-Venezia Giulia overlap with similarly-named DOCs. What are they, and what type of wines do they produce?

Click here for the answers: DOC Watch – Friuli not-so-trivia Answers

1 http://italianwinecentral.com/friuli-italys-next-doc/

References:

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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Welcome to the World, Lewis-Clark Valley AVA!

The Snake River in Idaho

The Snake River in Idaho

Welcome to the World, Lewis-Clark Valley AVA!

This week the TTB approved a new AVA—the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. The new American Viticultural Area will become official on May 20, 2016.

The Lewis-Clark AVA surrounds the area where the Clearwater River runs into the Snake River—before the Snake River meets the Columbia on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The new AVA, which overlaps Idaho and Washington State, covers portions of Nez Perce, Lewis, Clearwater, and Latah Counties in northern Idaho and Asotin, Garfield, and Whitman Counties in southeastern Washington.  This is the third AVA for Idaho, and number 14 for Washington State.

The new AVA covers a total of 479 square miles (306,650 acres)—with about 72% located in Idaho and 28% in Washington State. At the present time, the area is home to three bonded wineries as well as 16 commercial vineyards with a total of 81 acres currently planted to vine, with 50 more acres planned in the next few years.

As part of the approval of this new AVA, the boundary of the 11,370,320-acre Columbia Valley AVA was amended and made smaller by approximately 57,020 acres. This move avoids any overlap of the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA with any other existing AVAs.

Clarkson, Washington (to the left) and Lewiston, Idaho (to the right)

Clarkson, Washington (to the left) and Lewiston, Idaho (to the right)

The name of the AVA is derived from Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington—two towns that face each other across the Snake River within the boundaries of the region. These towns were named in honor of the famous explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who traveled through this area in the early 1800s.

The topography of the new AVA consists mostly of canyon walls, low plateaus, and bench lands formed by the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. The boundaries of the AVA follow the 1,970 foot (600 meter) contour, with all of the area inside the AVA at an elevation of 1,970 feet or lower. The areas outside of the AVA are significantly cooler and include the Palouse High Prairie to the north, the heavily forested Bitterroot Mountains to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, and the Craig Mountains (which include the protected area of the Hells Gate State Park) to the south.

There are over 80 different soil types in the area of the new AVA, however, the majority (over 95%) are Mollisols soils—defined as being comprised mainly of decomposed organic matter from the varieties of perennial grasses that grow along the banks of the rivers. The Mollisols soils are mixed with fine-grained, wind-blown particles known as loess soil. The area generally has a thin layer of topsoil due to year of river erosion; this thin layer of topsoil over the bedrock subsurface limits the possible depth of the vine’s roots, thus limiting fertility of the soil—which makes it ideal for wine grapes.

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For more information, see the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA docket on the TTB website.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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“A Glass of Grand Eminent, s’il vous plait”

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Last week the trade board of Burgundy growers and producers (Bourgogne Wine Board—BIVB) announced two new brands—Eminent and Grand Eminent—intended to further define and promote Crémant de Bourgogne.  Crémant de Bourgogne, produced under the standards of the Crémant de Bourgogne AOC, accounts for almost 10% of all the wine produced in Burgundy. In 2015, more than 17 million bottles of Crémant de Bourgogne were sold worldwide—with 32% exported.

The Crémant de Bourgogne AOC will not change, and the standards for this high-quality sparkling wine remain as follows:

  • Allowed grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, Sacy, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gamay
  • Requirements for assemblage: A minimum of 30% of the final blend must be made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir (combined); Gamay is limited to a maximum of 20%
  • The Traditional Method of sparkling wine production must be used (second fermentation in the bottle)
  • Minimum lees aging: 9 months
  • Total aging time before release: Minimum 12 months
  • Minimum 4 atms of pressure
  • Hand harvesting required

In addition to the standards of the AOC, the two new brands—Eminent and Grand Eminent—will have more stringent requirements, including the following:

image via www.bourgogne-wines.com

image via www.bourgogne-wines.com

Crémant de Bourgogne Eminent:

  • Minimum of 24 months aging on the lees

Crémant de Bourgogne Grand Eminent:

  • Only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties are allowed, except for rosé versions which may include up to 20% Gamay
  • Minimum of 36 months aging on the lees
  • Brut level sweetness or drier

For more information, see the website of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB)

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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Little Leaps and Tiny Bounds: Expansion of the Willamette Valley AVA

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Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVA, first established in 1983, just got a little bit bigger. Actually, it just got a teeny-tiny bit bigger, having been expanded by 29 square miles—from approximately 5,360 square miles to approximately 5,389 square miles (even the TTB calls this an approximation). This represents an increase of 0.5%. The TTB approved the rule expanding the AVA on March 3, 2016, and it will become official on April 4th.

The expansion area is located at is southern end of the established AVA. The newly designated areas fill in some of the viticultural “no-man’s-land” located between the southern end of the Willamette Valley AVA and the north/northeast boundary of the Umpqua Valley AVA.

While 29 square miles out of a total 5,389 might not sound very significant, it is highly significant to two wineries that own vineyards in newest section of the AVA. These two wineries, King Estate and Iris Vineyards, can now bottle a good deal of their wine under the Willamette Valley AVA—an obvious benefit to the reputation (and likely price point) of the wine.

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Interestingly enough, the application for the expansion of the AVA detailed the features of the expansion zone that are similar to the original AVA (whereas most AVA applications only try to differentiate themselves from the surrounding areas). Here is what the author of the petition, Steve Thomson (Executive Vice President of King Estate Winery) had to say about the area:

Topography:  The expansion area is, like the established AVA, composed of rolling hills between the Coast Range Mountains (to the west) and the Cascade Mountains (to the east) at elevations ranging from 500 feet to 1,200 feet. By contrast, the region outside the expanded AVA is much more rugged, mountainous, and at higher elevations.

Watershed: The expansion area is located within the watershed of the Willamette and Siuslaw Rivers, as is the established AVA. The region to the south of the expansion area is located in the watershed of the Umpqua River (as is the Umpqua Valley AVA).

Soils: The soils in the expansion area are mainly comprised of the same types of soils found in the established Willamette Valley AVA, including Willakenzie, Dupee, Jory, Bellpine, and Peavine. The area outside of the new boundaries of the AVA is mainly comprised of different soil types (although it does contain some Peavine soils).

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Climate: The climate of the expansion area in terms of annual mean temperature, precipitation, and degree days—while slightly cooler than the average of the established Willamette Valley AVA—is much closer to the overall climate of the Willamette Valley AVA than it is to the climate data of the Umpqua Valley AVA or its surrounding  areas.

This is a minor adjustment to the boundaries of an existing AVA—even the TTB, in its calculated legalese admits that it is “not a significant regulatory action” and “will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.” However, we are guessing that Iris Vineyards and King Estate will be doing some serious celebrating, and it is always good to have a reason for cheer.

So…we’d like to say “Welcome to the brotherhood of AVAs” to the new 29 square-mile region of the Willamette Valley AVA!

Click here to access the original documents concerning the Expansion of the Willamette Valley AVA Ruling  via the Federal Register of March 3, 2016

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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Welcome to the world, Lamorinda AVA!

Hillsides of Contra Costa County at sunset

Hillsides of Contra Costa County at sunset

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, the TTB approved the establishment of the Lamorinda AVA. The Lamorinda AVA is located in Contra Costa County, California, and includes part of the cities of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. (California residents might recognize this area as part of the “East Bay.”) The new AVA is entirely contained within the San Francisco Bay Area AVA, which is itself entirely contained within the Central Coast AVA.

The new AVA covers a total area of nearly 30,000 acres,  much of it encompassed by suburbia,  but it is also home to 46 commercial vineyards with a total of 139 acres of vines. According to the original petition (filed on behalf of the Lamorinda Wine Growers Association in 2013), each individual vineyard is small – perhaps 5 acres or less – due to both the citified infrastructure and the hilly terrain.  In addition to the established vineyards, there are three larger commercial vineyards at various stages of being planned or established in the area; these might soon add another 130 acres of commercial vineyards to the region. There are currently six wineries operating in the area.

According to the petition, the unique features of the Lamorinda AVA include its soil, topography, and climate:

  • Topography: The terrain consists mainly of moderate-to-steep hills with narrow valleys. In contrast, areas further inland are much more rugged, and areas to the west are both flatter and at lower overall elevations.
  • Soils: The soils of Lamorinda tend to be thin, with high levels of clay and sand. In contrast, soils in the surrounding areas tend have more sedimentary and volcanic elements.
  • Climate: The Lamorinda area is, overall, warmer than the areas to the north, south, and west due to the presence of hills that block the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean.  It is, however, cooler than the region located further inland, to its east.

Note: The name Lamorinda is a portmanteau from the names of the three cities that make up the region: Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda.

Welcome to the world, Lamorinda AVA!

For more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

 

Welcome to the World, Los Olivos District AVA!

One of the windmills of Solvang, California

One of the windmills of Solvang, California

Today, the TTB established the approximately 22,820-acre Los Olivos District viticultural area in Santa Barbara County, California. The new AVA, which becomes “official” on February 22, 2016, is wholly located within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, and is positioned in the area between the Ballard Canyon AVA (to the west) and the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA (to the east). The towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, Ballard, and Santa Ynez are within the boundaries of the new AVA.

There are currently 47 commercial vineyards and a total of 1,120 acres of vines within the new AVA.  The area is mostly planted to Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are 12 bonded wineries in the area, including  the Brander Vineyard,  Beckmen Vineyards, and Roblar Winery.

Fred Brander of Brander Vineyards spearheaded the effort to get the AVA approved, submitting a revised, 26-page petition in March of 2013. According to the petition, the “distinguishing features” of Los Olivos as compared to the surrounding areas include its topography, soils, and climate:

  • Topography: The Los Olivos AVA is mostly flat terrain, with a gentle sloping southward towards the Santa Ynez River. The surrounding area has higher elevations and steeper hills.
  • Climate: The flatter topography of Los Olivos allows the area to have higher amounts of sunshine (due to less fog) and rain (due to the lack of the rain shadow effect that the surrounding areas experience). The region, being 30 miles inland from the ocean, is quite warm duriless influenced by the morning fogs and cooling influence of the coast, allowing Los Olivos to become warm during the day and cool at night.
  • Firestone Vineyards in the new Los Olivos District AVA

    Vineyards in the new Los Olivos District AVA

    Soils: The majority of the soils in the Los Olivos AVA are well-drained alluvial soils, mostly fine sandy loam and clay. The soils of the surrounding areas are less fertile, drain faster, and are of a different soil class.

The petition contains a good deal of information in the “name evidence” section, including a connection with the historic Rancho Los Olivos. Additional name evidence cited includes the historic Hotel Los Olivos (now known as Mattei’s Tavern) , the Los Olivos Grand Hotel (Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn), the Los Olivos Café and, of course, the connection with the 2004 Academy Award winning movie Sideways.

Click here to access the new AVA’s Docket on the TTB Website.

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE, CSE, MBA…your blog administrator

Politics, Grapes, and Wine’s Carbon Footprint

Today we have a guest post from Mark Rashap, CWE. Mark tells us about the environmental impact of the wine industry, and what can be done to  minimize the carbon footprint of wine. 

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Last year’s Paris Climate Conference—COP21—can perhaps best be described as a bumpy ride at best. There were several political sticking points, including financing the reforms needed to combat climate change and holding developing countries to the same standards as developed countries. In the end, the media was left trying to make sense of whether any true progress occurred toward the goal to cap the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

This type of global bickering might seem laughable to the small time grape grower, but many in the wine business—from small wineries to regional associations—are attempting to take substantial steps reduce their carbon footprint, and perhaps, by doing so, help the cause of global warming. At the very least, the COP21 got the world talking about and focusing on carbon emissions, so let’s do our part and look at what stages of the winemaking process cause green house gases (GHG) and what progressive wineries are doing to combat them.

Starting in the vineyard, we see that the pure act of growing grapes, as well as agriculture in general, has the ability to absorb carbon and GHGs.  In 2015, a case study based in several Tasmanian vineyards did an incredible job at targeting the GHGs produced by wine production and recommendations to limit them.  They estimated that on average growing grapes produces 1.5 tons of CO2e (carbon equivalents) per hectare per year which is only 1-2% of the emissions of the total wine production.  While this is obviously a small percentage of the total GHG production, there are definitely ways to reduce this.  The largest culprit by far is the fuel needed to power vineyard equipment such as tractors, sprayers, and plows, which account for 55-90% of total vineyard emissions. Any way to limit the passing of this equipment through the vineyard is the most effective first step and can include: applying fertilizers through the drip irrigation system, sowing low growth grasses in between the rows, allowing animals to graze on these grasses, updating equipment for fuel efficiency, etc.

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The next biggest culprit, producing up to 30% of vineyard GHG production, is the electricity needed mostly to power pumps for irrigation.  Therefore, vineyard managers must make sure that their pumps are efficient and not wasting water where it is not needed.  Additionally, the use of mulches and various organic matter applications that aid in soil moisture retention will reduce reliance on the irrigation pumps.  Organic and biodynamic viticulture also avoids the use of inorganic Nitrogen based fertilizer, which can breakdown in the soil and produce Nitrous Oxide, a GHG that is 298 times as harmful as Carbon Dioxide (expressed as 298 CO2e).

During the COP21 climate talks, there was one session focused on wine production with representatives from Fetzer, Concha y Toro, Moët Chandon, Smith Haute Lafitte, and Château Maris.  Fetzer pledged to be carbon neutral by 2016.  Their facility runs 100% on solar and renewable energy, by way of 75,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof.  They are aiming to be zero waste, based on their efforts in composting, super-efficient cleaning systems, and treating waste water.

Packaging and transportation is considered the main contributor to GHGs for the wine industry.  As far as packaging, the fabrication of the bottle is the biggest cause of emissions; however, reducing the weight and increasing the percentage of recycled material will limit the impact.  In Champagne, the CIVC has introduced a new lighter weight bottle that that almost all wineries have adopted.  This change – from 900 g to 835 g; a 7.2% decrease – over an entire region is a substantial reduction; plus, it is cheaper to make and ship but still able to withstand the pressure. As far as bottle closures go, cork has the lowest carbon footprint, about equal to 1 gram CO2 per bottle which edges out the synthetics and screw caps.

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A 2007 study published by the American Association of Wine Economists, pegged transportation of finished wine as the greatest GHG contributor and analyzed the carbon footprint for the various methods of shipping.  Measured in grams of CO2 per ton of cargo per kilometer traveled, the carbon footprint of the various modes of transport are as follows: 52 for container shipping, 67 for refrigerated container shipping, 200 for trains, 252 for trucks, and 570 for air freight.  In essence, there is a sincere environmental cost to 2 day air shipping your next wine club installment.  Additionally, many large retailers are buying in bulk from various regions and bottling the wine closer to the market.  While the motivation for many of these innovations and choice in shipping is financial cost, there is an environment factor associated.

Despite the tricky politics involved in environmental protection on the worldwide stage, we in the wine business will be glad to know that there is serious progress being made in the industry to identify and improve the carbon footprint and environmental impact of our favorite wines.  Shipping will always be a GHG contributor, because we love wine from all over the world and are willing to pay for it.  However, better knowledge, innovation, and a commitment to reporting and improving will raise the bar for the entire industry.  Santé to that!

MarkPost authored by Mark Rashap, CWE. Mark has, over the past ten years, been in the wine world in a number of capacities including studying wine management in Buenos Aires, being an assistant winemaker at Nota Bene Cellars in Washington State, founding his own wine brokerage, and working for Texas-based retail giant Spec’s as an educator for the staff and public.

In August of 2015, Mark joined the team of the Society of Wine Educators as Marketing Coordinator to foster wine education across the country.

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References