• France's news in English
 

France's wine industry facing green future

Published: 15 Jan 2013 08:40 GMT+01:00

"We can't keep functioning like this, polluting the Earth," Alexis Raoux, sustainability manager for the Bordeaux-based drinks group Castel, told AFP.

"What feeds us is the soil. If we continue like this, in a few decades the land will be polluted and our wine won't be any good.

“Perhaps the most dramatic green innovation in the French wine world is in the field of disease-resistant grape varieties, the culmination of more than three decades of genetic research.

"Our solution is to put forth a plant that doesn't need any treatment," said Didier Merdinoglu, research director at France's INRA Colmar research centre.

Concerned about the impact of pesticides and vine treatments, including the copper used by organic farmers, on soil, air and workers, the scientist believes zero treatment is the future.

Obtained through cross-breeding as opposed to genetic modification, he expects the first new grape varieties to be available from 2016, incorporating resistance to the two most commonly treated vine complaints, oidium – also known as powdery mildew –  and downy mildew.

In the meantime, a new solar-powered vineyard robot called Vitirover aims to lighten wine's impact on the soil, by mowing the wild plants between vine rows without need for heavy, polluting tractors or herbicides.

Winegrowers allow this wild vegetation to grow to control vigour, improve grape and soil quality, encourage biodiversity, and protect against erosion.

Invented by Xavier David Beaulieu, co-owner of Chateau Coutet, an estate in the Bordeaux region, the 11-kilogramme (24-pound), GPS-guided robot won a special jury prize at the 2012 Vinitech trade fair in Bordeaux last month.

Lightweight bottles slash emissions

Vintners keen to slash waste are rethinking every step, down to the label. These days adhesive sticker labels have replaced the glued-on variety.

"So now we have a new waste product – the backing paper from the stickers," said Raoux, whose firm Castel set up a subsidiary to recycle the labelling waste from its 640 million annual bottle production.

Lighter bottles have gained ground, too, in a drive to cut wine's carbon footprint. Calculating that footprint is complex, but according to the French Vine and Wine Institute (IFV), the heaviest impact comes from tractor fuel, glass bottles, printed cardboard boxes, electricity and shipping combined.

Take the 43 million bottles of Champagne and French sparkling wine shipped to Britain: that alone spells 38,000 tonnes of glass packaging, according to the British-based Waste and Resources Action Study Programme (WRAP).

WRAP recycling experts say lightweight bottles could reduce that figure by 4,000 to 11,400 tonnes -- slashing wine-related carbon dioxide emissions, of which 35 percent are generated by transport.

Four years ago, Verallia, the packaging arm of Saint-Gobain, the world's largest glass wine bottle producer, introduced a lighter range called Ecova, which today accounts for half the firm's 300-million-bottle Bordeaux market.

The bottles use up to 95-96 percent recycled glass and are 50 to 70 grammes lighter than the previous line, according to Didier Dumas, regional director for Verallia.

Other French wine appellations like Savoy, Alsace and the Loire Valley have made the lighter bottle their official choice, he said.

Green pioneers are lobbying French wine's governing bodies to take their concerns on board.

"In France today, our bedrock is the Appellation of Origin (AOC)," said Christophe Riou, the IFV's scientific and development director. "We need to integrate environmental questions into the appellation."

Currently, an AOC certification denotes quality based on location, grape varieties, viticulture and winemaking methods.

Some regions like Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy have forged ahead, using carbon footprint studies to measure and reduce their impact.

But that is not enough for Riou, who would like a nationwide study on the broader impact of the sector, looking beyond the carbon footprint.

For instance, a glass of French wine takes some 90 litres of water to produce, according to the Netherlands-based Water Footprint Network.

"There is the water footprint, carbon footprint, and the impact on biodiversity," said Riou. "Today we are working on this life cycle. You have to integrate all three."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais Migrants
Migrant: 'France will protect me more than UK'
Migrants building a home in the New Jungle in Calais. Photo: AFP

Migrant: 'France will protect me more than UK'

While the intense media coverage of Calais might suggest that all migrants there want to make it to the UK, an increasing number of them are now actually choosing to stay in France. READ  

Reunion wreckage
Experts confirm Réunion debris is Boeing 777
People comb the beaches of Réunion looking for more plane wreckage. Photo: AFP

Experts confirm Réunion debris is Boeing 777

Malaysian authorities confirmed on Friday that plane wreckage washed up on France's island of Réunion was from a Boeing 777, meaning the part is almost certainly from missing flight MH370. READ  

France names capital cities for new regions
Here is the full list of the new proposed capitals. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

France names capital cities for new regions

French officials have revealed their suggestions for the capital cities of the country's newest regions. But not everyone is happy about the choices. READ  

French roads set for 'Black Saturday' jams
Authorities are recommending people to delay their journeys until Sunday. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/ AFP

French roads set for 'Black Saturday' jams

Planning to head out to the countryside this weekend? Beware, the roads will be hit by millions of French motorists taking off for their August break. READ  

Striking French seamen block Calais port
Striking employees of the My Ferry Link company block the access to the port of Calais. Photo: AFP

Striking French seamen block Calais port

Hundreds of French sailors blocked the city of Calais Friday, using burning tyres to prevent access to the port in the midst of the peak holiday travel period. READ  

French court says 'non' to new cockfighting pits
France hopes to be able to stamp out cockfighting altogether eventually. Photo: Jean-Michel Andre/ AFP

French court says 'non' to new cockfighting pits

France's top court on Friday upheld a ban on new cockfighting pits, as the country seeks to stamp out the ancient bloodsport that continues in some regions despite being banned in most parts of the world. READ  

Riviera trade group: 'Leave Saudis alone'
The beach is located just below the Saudi king’s Riviera villa in Vallauris. Photo: Valery Hache/ AFP

Riviera trade group: 'Leave Saudis alone'

After weeks of uproar over a decision to let the Saudi royals “privatise” a public beach on the French Riviera, a trade group has pleaded for locals to calm down and leave the Middle Eastern visitors alone. READ  

France and Russia 'reach deal' on ditched Mistrals
Photo: Frank Perry /AFP

France and Russia 'reach deal' on ditched Mistrals

After eight months of negotiations France and Russia have reached a deal on the amount Paris must pay Moscow in compensation for the non-delivery of two Mistral warships, a senior Russian official said Friday. READ  

Google defies France on 'right to be forgotten'
Google rejected a French bid for a global right to be forgotten. Photo: AFP

Google defies France on 'right to be forgotten'

Google on Thursday rejected a French demand to globally apply the so-called right to be forgotten, which requires the company to remove links to certain information about users if asked. READ  

Extra French police help curb Calais migrant flow
French gendarmes attempt to block a migrant after he entered the Eurotunnel site. Photo: AFP

Extra French police help curb Calais migrant flow

A newly enforced police unit in northern France blocked at least 200 people from reaching the Channel Tunnel on Thursday night, as the British government prepares for an emergency meeting on Friday to grapple with the crisis. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Réunion's plane debris to be probed in France
Ten things you didn't know about Gay Paris
France eyes boost to holiday leave rights
Business & Money
French dating sites 'not protecting client privacy'
Features
Learn more about the Bayonne festival - France's wildest party
Features
What's on in France: Ten things to do in August
Features
What to see and do at the Paris Plages this summer
Saudi royals 'bar' French policewomen from beach
Take a closer look at the 560,000-year-old tooth found in France
National
Swiss army pilfers French water to give to thirsty cows
National
'B**ch' and 'brainless': French shop slurs clients
Travel
French cops rebel over order to give kids sweets
National
New measures to stop migrant deaths in Calais
Travel
Here are some of the most ridiculous comments you'll read about France
Features
Life may be about to get easier for expats settling in France
National
Burning tyres and blocking roads is just the way the French do strikes
National
Muslim tourists visiting French Alps are reminded of burqa ban
Opinion
Slim and chic: Are French women fed up of the stereotypes?
French officials defend handing public beach over to Saudi royals
Society
French kiss: Should expats in France do 'la bise' among themselves?
National
Paris commuters and tourists face summer of travel trouble
This man learnt the entire French vocabulary in nine weeks, but why?
French speed cameras snare tens of thousands of British drivers
Gallery
What kind of expat in France are you: A lover or a loather?
Society
French tweeters reveal the trials and tribulations of #GrowingupFrench
Where to find the best (and worst) quality of life in France
National
Riviera rumpus as Saudi royals grab public beach all for themselves
What we know about France's foiled terror plot
Features
Here are ten places in Paris where you can escape the summer heat
National
Coup d'état fails in France after being snubbed by military
Are shoppers in northern France the most honest in the world?
French woman fined €90 for driving in flip-flops
Cyclists in Paris get the green light to jump red
'Adieu France': Angry mum's parting rant goes viral
Franco-German rift opens over Greece and it could take time to heal
The Megavalanche: The most spectacular cycling event in France
Ex-French PM's daughter creates a buzz by going topless for photo shoot
Could Parisians be bathing in the Seine by 2024?
Paris unveils new mobile app to help non-French speakers
France declares war on public transport sex pests
So where's the best place to live in France if you want to be happy?
Opinion
Paris: The City of Light, Romance, Style and the worst loos in Europe?
National
Eight ways living in France will change your lifestyle for good
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,605
jobs available