Choose local wine
Choosing local wine helps you reduce your carbon footprint because it doesn't make a fuel-intensive journey from afar to reach you. Choosing local wines also supports locally owned and operated farming efforts, and many local wineries practice sustainable viticulture practices.
How to choose local wine
- Use online resources to find a winery that you can drive to and purchase your wine directly from the winemaker. If you can buy your wine at a nearby winery—and many wineries have on-site wine shops where you can purchase (and sample) their locally produced libations—you can get around the carbon-intensive shipping process altogether. Check out Wine-Searcher.com's Winery database for listings near you. You may be pleasantly surprised: Although California is king when it comes to winemaking in the US—over 3,000 wineries are listed in California on the WineWeb's winery map—wineries do indeed exist throughout the US. For example, there are 20 wineries located in Kansas and 14 in Maine, according to the WineWeb's North American Wine Map. You can support local wineries whether you live in an area with just a handful of wineries or thousands of them.
- If you can't personally frequent a winery, buy the wine that traveled the shortest distance to get to you. According to the report Red, White and 'Green': The Cost of Carbon In the Global Wine Trade, how wine is transported actually has a greater impact on climate change than issues of organic versus non-organic viticulture. For For Americans living points west of a "green line" that runs through Ohio, it's more carbon-friendly to drink wines trucked in from Oregon, Washington, or California. For those living east of the line, it's thought to be less eco-damaging to imbibe European wines since the wine has traveled via container ship (the most carbon-efficient mode of transport) and then trucked a shorter distance.
- Buy local and organic, if possible. Although organic and biodynamic wineries are primarily limited to areas with a booming wine trade, it doesn't hurt to ask your local winery about their farming methods. For example, the Pacific Northwest has a regional eco-friendly education and certification viticulture organization outside of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s National Organic Program called Low Input Viticulture and Enology, Inc. (LIVE). LIVE's objectives include responsible stewardship and ecosystem stability, biological diversity within a farm, and less of a reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The Pacific Northwest is also home to Salmon-Safe Certified wines. Parducci Wine Cellars in Mendocino County, California, is not only locally owned and operated but is America's first carbon-neutral winery that is run on solar power, uses tree-free paper and soy-based inks, and operates tractors run on biodiesel fuel.
- Use your vacation to support local viticulture. Wine tourism is big business—in the US, 19.7 million thirsty visitors call on California's wineries each year. If you're planning a sustainable vacation—or a quick romantic getaway close to home—why not make it a grape-centric one that supports regional viticulture? Many vine-heavy areas offer package deals and there are even wine-themed hotels out there; a notable one is the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Spain's Rioja wine region, which offers "wine therapy" massages and treatments at the in-house spa. If traveling by plane, wrap any liquid mementos up and pack with your luggage so you don't have to subject it to a separate fossil-fuel intensive voyage.
- Ask about local wines when dining out or at the wine store. Your waiter or wine steward may not be able to describe the carbon impact of each bottle but they can tell you which glass goes best with the salmon (the Pinot Gris!) and perhaps a bit about the winery. Many wine stores also specialize in regional wines. This eliminates the trouble of hunting for wines that haven't made an around-the-world trip to reach you. Vintage New York is a primo example of a wine store/bar that features strictly regional wines—all come from boutique and artisanal wineries in the New York region. Check out Vino!'s state-by-state database of wine stores before starting your quest for regional Riesling.
Choosing local wine helps you green because...
- It cuts back on the negative environmental consequences of fossil-fuel-consuming long-haul transportation. It's estimated that some bottles of premium vino consume three times their weight in petroleum.
- Many regional wineries practice environmental stewardship in their day-to-day business practices.
Drinking wine produced close to home supports regional agricultural efforts and eliminates the carbon footprint that results from the long trek a bottle may make from vineyard to your grape-loving palate.
With wines being produced in North America, Australia, South America, South Africa, and elsewhere, it's likely that you can find wine being produced not far from your home. Californians can especially benefit from the US wine market: around 90 percent of total wine production in the US takes place in California. In 2005, for example, the US produced more than 714 million gallons of wine; nearly 650 million gallons of that figure came from California's wine-producing regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma County. As of 2005, there were 2,275 wineries in California and 4,929 nationwide. Other US wine-producing regions include Washington, Oregon, Texas, and New York's Long Island and Finger Lakes regions. On a global scale, the United States ranks fourth in wine production behind France, Italy, and Spain.
The ecological impacts of transport
Given the worldwide popularity of wine, transportation-related eco-ills are among the chief environmental concerns for this product. These include oil consumption and smog-creating carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emitted from the transportation of wine in long-haul diesel trucks. Diesel exhaust contains over 450 chemicals, 40 of them believed to be toxic to humans and detrimental to the environment. Carbon monoxide from vehicle emissions accounts for 56 percent of total carbon emissions nationwide and, along with nitrogen oxide, contributes to air pollution. It is estimated that most food products, including wine, travel an average of 1,500 miles before reaching our kitchen tables.
- TreeHugger - Wine Carbon Study Says East Coasters Should Drink French
- MoreThanWaste.com - Wine trade faces key carbon choices
- USATODAY.com - Wine regions feel the heat
- The Wine Web - American Wine Regions Map Click from state to state to discover specific wine regions and wineries. A world map is also available.
- Dr. Vino - Calculating the carbon footprint of wine: My research findings
- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center - Wine Tours: Overview
- The Wine Institute - US/California Wine Production
- The Wine Institute - Number of California Wineries
- The Wine Institute - World Wine Production by Country
- Clean Air Council - Philadelphia Diesel Difference: Diesel Exhaust Pollution
- Sustainable Table - The Issues: Fossil Fuels and Energy Use