• France edition
 
France's wine industry facing green future
Disease proof vines present one of the ways to make France's wine industry more eco friendly. Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP

France's wine industry facing green future

Published: 15 Jan 2013 08:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 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
QUIZ: Find out how French you've become
So how French do you think you are? Photo: Frenchman: Shutterstock

QUIZ: Find out how French you've become

It's impossible to be an expat in France without turning a little bit French. Take our quiz and find out where you land on the Frenchiness scale. READ  

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder
Tired of bad customer service in France? Photo: Smiling worker: Shutterstock

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder

Many Anglos have a dim view of customer service in France, but the French aren't happy either with how some shopkeepers treat them. Now a growing programme is labeling shopkeepers who you can expect to be friendly. READ  

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ
A massive fire cut broadcasting for many of France's public radio stations. Photo: France Bleu

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ

A massive fire ripped through the Paris building that houses studios for some of France's public radio stations, prompted broadcasts to be abruptly cut off. It's unclear what sparked the blaze. READ  

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France
A train and metro strike is set for Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France

Commuters should brace themselves for travel chaos next week, with a train and Metro strike set for Tuesday, according to AFP. But it's not clear yet how big of an industrial action it's going to be. READ  

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl
The teenager was told last week that she must pay back €10,000 in just 15 days. Euros: Shutterstock

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl

A 13-year-old girl in western France has been told she must pay back the €10,000 that was given to her by the state after her sailor father was killed in an accident. READ  

National Front pulls in 'record membership'
The National Front party has a total of 83,000 members – the highest number in the history of the party. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

National Front pulls in 'record membership'

After a year of unprecedented electoral success, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Front party is attracting more members than ever before in the 42-year-old party’s history, French media has reported. READ  

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'
Both men had been motivated by the actions of Mohamed Merah, a French-Algerian national killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people. Photo: AFP

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'

Morocco said on Thursday it has arrested two jihadists inspired by French terrorist Mohamed Merah who were planning to attack banks and multinational companies in France and in the North African country. READ  

Halloween in France
Paris Catacombs still draw thousands
A file picture shows skulls and bones stacked at the Catacombs of Paris. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Paris Catacombs still draw thousands

A place of fear, legend, inspiration and exploration, Paris's skull and bone-lined Catacombs still draw thousands of visitors each year, many of whom queue for hours to explore the ghoulish burial site. READ  

French to try out high-speed Ebola test
The trial will include a prototype device unveiled last week, similar to a home pregnancy test, that may make diagnosis possible in under 15 minutes. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

French to try out high-speed Ebola test

French researchers will conduct trials with prototype Ebola diagnostic tests in Guinea in November, with results expected within weeks for speedy deployment, the head of France's Ebola task force said on Thursday. READ  

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine
A racist magazine cover has resulted in a fine for a French publication. Photo: AFP

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine

A far-right publication that compared France's justice minister, who is black, to a monkey was hit on Thursday with a €10,000 fine for making racist statements. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
National
Eight Halloween events not to miss in Paris
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
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