Getting it Straight: Exact Carbon Emissions From One Bottle of Wine

Written by Moritz Bühner   // January 8, 2012    5 Comments

ktf_wine_title

I bet you know how much carbon dioxide your car emits per kilometer. Maybe you are also well informed about the carbon reduction goals of the country where you live. But, when the working day is over, when you sit in a restaurant or relax at home with your partner or a friend by your side, deep in good conversation, when you start to enjoy life and when you open a delicious bottle of Spanish red wine – have you ever thought about its impact on the climate?

Grupo ARCE has. The company derives its expertise from having calculated carbon footprints in the food sector and the electromechanical industry. Operating in Spain, a country which scores third when it comes to global red wine production, grupo ARCE can have a word to say concerning the environmental impact of wine.

Following the PAS 2050 methodology, they analyzed the carbon footprint of a single bottle of wine. Not any wine, but a Verdejo from Rueda, to be precise. “Verdejo wines are aromatic, often soft and full-bodied,” reads Wikipedia. Are they also environmentally friendly?

This is where the analysis becomes interesting. Reducing climate impacts, no matter whether it concerns a car’s impact or a wine’s impact, requires a certain knowledge of how the product is made. This knowledge, together with convenient climate assessment software, makes for a detailed analysis of which parts of the product contribute the most, and of where the reduction potential is highest.

Part of the Process Map: Raw Materials and Manufacture phase for a Spanish Red Wine in Umberto for Carbon Footprint (c) grupo arce

Here you can see what it might look like: the first two steps of a process map. The process map is essential for a precise carbon assessment. The complete maps for both the red and the white wines that grupo ARCE analyzed are available online. They can be found at umberto’s download section (after a free registration), via “Umberto User Workshop 2011″, where the presentation was given.
From the first result, we can see that the raw material production phase emits the most. Raw materials account for 0.80 out of 1.28kg CO2-equivalent emissions. Remember: the functional unit analyzed here is one bottle and the approach is cradle to grave. That means we consider the full life cycle of a bottle of wine, from grape growing to wine making to drinking to throwing away the bottle.

Out of 1.21 kg CO2-eq emissions per bottle of wine, 0.8 kg derive from the raw materials (c) grupo ARCE

 

Interestingly, the biggest slice of the wine’s impact is not its transport. It is the packaging, as you can see in the following image. By the way: the distribution/retail phase is based on an overall distance of approximately 2200 km. The grape production, or shall we say the wine making process’s most essential part, contributes only 32%, whereas the most influential carbon emission comes from the packaging. Almost half of the total product carbon footprint – 46%! – derives from the packaging, visible in the following image.

 

Which material exactly? The packaging parts consist, among others, of 4% for the cork, and of 85% for the glass.

Emission share of all the packaging materials (c) grupo ARCE

Wow! Summing it up, the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine, which equals 1,2144 kg of carbon dioxide, includes a 39% contribution from the glass bottle alone!

 

39% of the emissions a bottle of wine generates, are caused by the glass bottle (c) grupo ARCE

If you want to get into detail with this, consider registering at the umberto website and navigate to the download section, where many presentations from the umberto user workshops can be accessed. The following two “know the flow” articles may also be of interest to you:

The amazing article image was taken by gfpeck and yes, it is turned 90 degrees. No, the author was not under the influence of a Verdejo while writing this article.


About Moritz Bühner :

Job: Freelance blogger, attitude: green, reason: by conviction. Bachelor in Environmental and Bioresource Management at the University of Applied Life Sciences Vienna. Born in Hamburg, Germany, lived in Quebec (CAN), Vienna (AUT) and Pamplona (ESP). Why he blogs? "The possibility of going into detail with every link, satisfying the desire to learn. The direct feedback. The free global distribution. I just love the medium!"

Tags:

carbon assessment

carbon footprint

food industry

product carbon footprint

Umberto

umberto for carbon footprint

umberto user workshop

wine


5 COMMENTS

  1. By Whynton, January 9, 2012

    In rural Italy (Tuscany to be precise) I observed an alternative approach to selling wine. Reading the results of the carbon footprint of wine that approach seems to be a very environmentally friendly one: You can purchase home grown wines in containers (5 litres etc.) and return or refill the containers. The wine tasted very well indeed. But I am not sure whether the ordinary wine consumer around the world would be willing to accept wine that does not come in glas bottles..

    Reply
    • By Moritz Buehner, January 12, 2012

      I definitely agree on the aspect of consumer perception. Opening the bottle is part of the wine drinking ritual. Adding to this, conserving the wine and letting its body develop through several years, seems almost impossible without its bottle.
      However, most mediterranean restaurants offer a “vino di casa” with considerable quality. For young wines and for restaurants, the container option you mention is practicable, and the environment benefits.

      Reply
  2. By Pamela Harling, January 30, 2013

    Dear Moritz, living in the UK I always try to drink European wines as having a smaller carbon footprint than say wines from Australia or the USA……have you done the comparisons?

    Reply
    • By Moritz Buehner, February 3, 2013

      Hi Pamela, thanks for your question. The LCA I referred to in my article did not compare different scenarios for the “production to retail” stage. However, in a Canadian LCA I found on the web, the author (Emma Point) compared different transport options, and it turned out, as ever so often: the overall distance is not directly correlated to the emissions. You can’t say “the further away the source, the worse the environmental effects”. The reality is more complex: it is the means of transport that counts. Per bottle of wine, the big container vessel (sea transport) is so much more efficient than the truck (land transport), that it is the distance from the winery to the next harbour and the distance from the destination harbour to the the point of sales that requires most energy. In the Canadian case, the Nova Scotia-based winery usually sells its bottles in nearby Halifax, using small delivery truck to get it there. This “base case” generates a global warming potential of 3.95 kg CO2eq. Now if you transport the bottle to the bigger city of Toronto instead, which is 1800 km away, and use a bigger (hence more efficient) transport truck, the GWP slightly drops to 3.93 kg CO2eq!
      What’s even more interesting: Moving the point of sale further away to Perth in Australia, about ten times the distance (18,000km), the emissions drop again, because the share of land transport is lower. The overseas scenario creates only 3.90 kg CO2 eq (- 1.1%).
      To put this into perspective: If you as a consumer drove to the shop to buy the bottle by car, and this distance was 25km longer than average (5km), it would generate 120% more emissions (8.7 kg CO2eq)!

      As a conclusion, my suggestion is twofold: First, don’t buy national, but regional products. Second: Use a bicycle or public transport for your shopping. In Denmark and Holland they make great “utility” bikes with room for at least 4 cases of wine.
      And if you live close to an industrial harbour: bring your Atlas to the wine shop and check how far the harbour is away from the imported wine’s producer region ;)

      Emma V. Point (2008): LIFE CYCLE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF WINE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION IN NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA
      download at http://www.fcrn.org.uk/sites/default/files/Life_Cycle_Environmental_Impacts_of_Wine.pdf

      Reply
      • By Moritz Buehner, February 3, 2013

        I forgot to mention that energy us e and carbon emission are not a holy grail. The holistic approach should also take into consideration what the LCA cannot reflect: road development and traffic noise for instance. In my humble opinion: You’re good when you stick to local products.

        Reply

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