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Powdery Mildew May be Controlled Through an RNA Spray, Carbon Marketplaces Take Off

The Full S.I.P. logo: MainLogo The Full S.I.P. 9/25/2022 Green Ratings
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A pioneering RNA spray has shown promise in the treatment of powdery mildew, reducing and perhaps eliminating fungicide use. The INAO has approved an expansion of vine distance between rows in Champagne, some are saying could lead to a 20% reduction in gas emissions by allowing more efficient equipment to be used in the vineyards - it is optional however. Esther Mobley tells readers how to find glyphosate free wines made from California in her follow up piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. Carbon markets are shaping up to be a big business, Salesforce enters the fray this fall. In Grape Collective Lisa Denning looks at how Loire producers are going organic - while comparing the French sustainable certifications HVE and Terra Vitis. Jane Anson’s Inside Bordeaux looks at the use of glass bottles in luxury wine, especially Bordeaux, and Avignonesi and Ridgeview are B Corps.

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Viticulture

Champagne, France: The Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) has approved the hotly-debated ‘vignes semi-larges’ (VSL) initiative in Champagne. The Drinks Business

  • This means that the necessary distance between rows of vines will soon be increased to 2.2 meters, up from the current maximum of 1.5 meters, a measure which has stood for more than 100 years.

  • The Syndicat General des Vignerons del la Champagne (SGV) conducted a study over the course of 15 years which found that larger spacing between vines could lead to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, per France24.

  • This is due to the greater distances allowing for more efficient equipment to be used. The VSL initiative is optional and the extent of carbon emissions reduction will depend on how many producers choose to replant.

  • There is a suspicion among some that the main objective of the initiative is to cut costs associated with cultivation. And there are fears that VSL is paving the way for mechanical harvesting in Champagne.

Berkeley, California: Pioneering technology will allow growers to control powdery mildew with less reliance on FRAC 3 fungicides. Western Farm Press

  • University of California, Berkeley plant biologist Mary Wildermuth, who studies how to turn off mildew’s mode of infection on grapes, says “compared to traditional chemicals, mildew is less likely to develop resistance to this technology, thus reducing the need for fungicide applications.”

  • Vines are typically treated up to a dozen times over a growing season, with 90% of the pesticide use designed to treat powdery mildew.

  • Every organism has DNA, the blueprint which translates into protein via converted RNA messengers and we can now spray a small piece of RNA that is complimentary to the powdery mildew messenger RNA.  It’s very specific in terms of only recognizing powdery mildew,” said Wildermuth.

  • Because it’s organic technology, it’s beneficial to the environment. From a cost standpoint, “Right now it’s similar to the cost of chemical fungicides applied every 10-14 days, but we’re anticipating costs will come down further while allowing longer intervals between application,” said Wildermuth.

California: Esther Mobley has a follow up piece on her widely read article on glyphosate (Roundup use in wineries in California). She answers the question – of how can you find wines that are glyphosate free in California. The answer is complex.  San Francisco Chronicle

  • If the wine was made from organically, biodynamically or regeneratively farmed grapes, then it wasn’t farmed with Roundup. Whether certified (look for the following logos: USDA Organic, CCOF Organic, Demeter, Regenerative Organic Certified, Agriculture Biologique or Biodyvin) or not they will not have the herbicide. Editor’s note – if not certified, and many are not due to either being in transition (it often takes at least three years) or costs – you will have to research on the winery’s website to confirm.

  • It’s also possible for a wine’s grapes to be organic but the wine itself to not be organic. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture stipulates that its organic-certified wine must not have more than 100 parts per million sulfur dioxide added to it (Editor’s note: this is naturally occurring sulfur dioxide; contrasted with the EU where a maximum of 100 parts per million for red wine (compared to 150 for conventional reds) and 150 parts per million for whites and rosés (compared to 200 for their conventional counterparts).

  • Some perfectly organic grapes might end up in a wine that doesn’t meet this particular qualification. Such a wine could still say “made with organic grapes” on its back label without carrying an organic-wine logo. Still, in this case, the grapes will not have been farmed with Roundup.

  • The USDA’s Organic Integrity Database,  allows you to search for all U.S. agricultural producers that carry a variety of organic certifications, is kind of a nightmare from a user-experience perspective.

  • Demeter, the biodynamic certifier, has an online directory (not specific to wine) that is a little better.

  • She also recommends the Slow Wine Guide, an annual publication that vets wineries for a range of ecological criteria. The guide recommends wineries that do not use chemically synthesized fertilizers (like Roundup), and also checks for things like water use, sustainably constructed buildings. It’s a physical, printed publication, and costs $25.

Mendoza, Argentina: Edy del Popolo, General Manager and viticulturist for Susana Balbo Wines and his own personal project PerSe is advocating for planting in the hills as the future for Mendoza wine. The Drinks Business

  • “There are two factors that help: firstly the soil is much poorer on the slopes, so the roots are closer to the surface and absorb the water more readily,” Del Popolo explains. “And there is also more rain at the foothills, sometimes double, so we also can reduce irrigation there too.”

  • At PerSe he requires less than 200 mm additional irrigation. This compares to an average of 350 mm on flat, valley floor vineyards and 600 mm for valley floor vineyards using flood irrigation. 

US: Smithsonian Magazine has yet another look at hybrid grapes and how they are gaining renewed interest in the against fight climate change and aiding efforts to reduce inputs.

  • It describes the process used to cultivate and test new hybrids at the University of Minnesota, where they’re growing 12,000+ grape plants, many of which are genetically distinct from each other.

  • Researchers harvest grapes from the surviving plants and a full-time university winemaker produces up to 100 batches of wine per year.

  • Scientists analyze the wines’ chemical makeup, then use that to inform their plant breeding decisions the following spring in the hopes of improving attributes like grape yield, fruit quality, wine quality and disease resistance, among others.

  • They also use DNA testing to understand where desirable traits come from in the grape genome so they can select for those traits earlier in the breeding process.

  • The piece also touches on the marketability of hybrid wines, as well as the quality issues surrounding them. In addition, not all hybrids work when they get into different parts of the world, there is still guess work involved.

Carbon Marketplaces

Illinois: PBS News looks at how carbon marketplaces are working.

  • These programs allow companies to purchase carbon credits to offset their carbon emissions from large scale agricultural companies who then pay their contract farmers to plant carbon absorbing cover crops. 

  • Estimates equate about one ton per acre of carbon is sequestered through cover crops planted in the off season.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture reports only 4% of farmland is planted with cover crops, and only a small fraction of those farms are enrolled in carbon programs.

  • Despite support many acknowledge the real change needs to come from emitters reducing their carbon output, rather than buying offsets.

US: Salesforce is entering the carbon-credit business. Wall Street Journal

  • The huge sales platform widely used across many industries, is launching a marketplace for carbon credits that it says will provide transparency in this often opaque but fast-growing industry.

  • Called Net Zero, it will go online in October first in the US with 90 projects selling carbon credits to support programs such as forestry, soil health, and renewable energy in the developing world.

  • Credits carry identifications after receiving verification from a registry, the largest being non-profit Verra’s Verified Carbon Units.

  • Salesforce won’t require users to have an account to browse the list of projects, which will detail pricing, availability and third-party ratings.

Packaging

Bordeaux, France: Jane Anson and Evlyne Resnick pen a piece on luxury wine and glass bottles – squarely focused on France and primarily on Bordeaux. Inside Bordeaux

  • Packaging is widely noted as being in the primary source of carbon emissions for wineries, and luxury level wine is almost exclusively bottled in glass.

  • While the piece pegs global glass recycling rates at 13-40%, it is worth noting it is higher in many countries – in the US about 30%, 75% in the UK and upwards of 90% in Nordic countries like Norway. Bottle deposits are often key to lifting recycling rates, a California bill encompassing alcohol bottles was just passed.

  • Bordeaux’s strides are lackluster, with The Bordeaux Wines Board reporting a 24% reduction in carbon emissions since 2012 with the aim to reach 46% by 2030. Three out of the five goals of its action plan are about freight transportation with the use of alternative fuels (biofuels made from grape pomace and balancing sea freight with air) and glass packaging. From 2007 to 2019 the average Bordeaux wine bottle weight has reduced by only 12%.

  • Reuse efforts are underway - Bordeaux startup LUZ Environnement will collect, clean and sterilize, and then return the bottles (not necessarily to the same producer) – with each bottle able to be reused six-seven times. The technology is for now set up only on the traditional Bordeaux bottle size, and they are working with chateaux located within a 100km radius of her factory near Langon, Bordeaux.

  • French company Verallia is working on increasing the use of cullet (recycled glass) in its production: it already represents 51.6%.  

  • The 225 wine brand, (owned by Châteaux Langoa and Léoville Barton in Saint-Julien, and Château Mauvesin Barton in Moulis-en-Médoc) is produced in Bordeaux, shipped in bulk to London and once there, bottled and labelled with labels made from sugar cane residue. The wooden case is also mentioned – with many collectors opting to age their wines in the cases they come in. Many reuse them in many ways, some caisseries (case makers) transform empty cases into works of art: CaviDéco in Bordeaux uses wine estate stamps to create small pieces of furniture, while L’Ecrin du Vin imagined a clever way to transform the one-bottle case into a lamp, while Château Fleur Cardinale in St Emilion includes instructions on the bottom of their wooden cases with suggestions for up-cycling, including turning them into bird boxes.

Singapore: A program to reduce waste is set to see Singapore consumers paying a 10 or 20 cent deposit on canned or bottled drinks. The Drinks Business

  • Planned to be rolled out by mid-2024, it is predicted that up to 80% of empty drinks containers could be returned for recycling under the proposed return scheme helping to reduce waste considerably.

  • The drinks container return scheme will be on target to contribute towards Singapore’s goal to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill per capita per day by 20% by 2026 and 30% by 2030, as well as boost its national recycling rate to 70% by 2030.

Chicago, Illinois: Smirnoff is rolling out a pilot program to collect used glass the company will recycle to create new bottles for its products. Recycling Today

  • Through its partnership with the Don’t Trash Glass campaign, a combined effort with the Glass Packaging Institute, Berkely Springs, West Virginia, and GlassKing Recovery & Recycling, Phoenix, Smirnoff will work with 300 Chicago area bars and restaurants to collect ready-to-recycle glass that will be processed by Smirnoff’s glass partners and transported to the Smirnoff packaging plant in Plainfield, Illinois, where the company will refill them.

Energy Use

Sweden & Norway: An interesting look at how heat generated from data centers is being repurposed to heat local municipalities. Axios

  • Data centers account for about 1% of global electricity use annually and emit enormous amounts of heat that generally goes unused.

  • Stockholm Data Parks, a partnership between the city of Stockholm, energy company Stockholm Exergi, and power grid operator Ellevio, aims to produce 10% of the heat required to meet Stockholm's warming needs by 2035.

  • In Norway, the municipality of Bjørnafjorden is developing a commercial area, Lyseparken, with the extensive infrastructure needed for large-scale data center heat recycling installed from the get-go.

  • The heat is channeled into underground water systems running below a city or town. It can be difficult and expensive to build the infrastructure if it doesn’t already exist. 

Bordeaux, France: A brief look at how Château Poupille, 23 hectares in the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux appellation and 10 hectares in Saint-Émilion, has invested in solar energy. Vitisphere

  • For the past 15 years, the property has been using solar energy, first with 500 m² of photovoltaic panels in steel tanks where the electric is sold back to the grid (20-year contract).

  • In 2018, 200 m² of bi-glass panels have been fitted to the winery for its own consumption, producing a maximum of 33.6 kiloWatts of peak power and 12 kWh storage batteries.  

  • The vineyards are also certified organic.

Marketing

Montepulciano, Italy: Avignonesi, Italy’s biggest biodynamic winery located in Vino Nobile in Montepulciano, has received B Corp certification. Vino Joy News

  • Purchased by Belgium-born Virgine Saverys in 2009, the 173 ha estate went through the transformation to biodynamic viticulture and later the more vigorous regenerative farming process to minimize its ecological impact.

  • Avignonesi is also certified organic, biodynamic (Biodyvin), ISO 45001.

UK: English sparkling wine estate Ridgeview has achieved of B Corp accreditation. The Drinks Business

  • Ridgeview has pledged a commitment to becoming carbon neutral across all three scopes assessed by B Lab, the non-profit responsible for granting B Corp status, by 2030.

UK: Argentine winery Bodega Argento has launched three premium organic wines with Bibendum as part of its quest to make its UK on-trade offering completely organic. The Drinks Business

  • Their goal is to be 100% organic in the on-trade by 2024, currently five out of eight SKUs are organic.

  • They are Argentina’s largest organic producer with 322 hectares already certified, and plan to have another 650 certified in the next five years.  

Loire Valley, France: Lisa Denning looks at how Loire Valley producers are adapting to organic and biodynamic methods – as well as comparing those to French sustainable certifications like HVE (High Environmental Value) and Terra Vitis. Grape Collective

  • Per Interloire 25% of Loire estates and 18% of the vineyard surface is organic, an increase of 29% since 2021.

  • Xavier Amirault, owner of Domaine Amirault, an organic and biodynamic-certified winery in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, says that Terra Vitis was set up by well-meaning winegrowers as a way to reduce their environmental footprint, whereas HVE was set up by the government as a mandatory requirement for gaining access to other governmental aid. Yet he is quick to add that he likes the idea of pushing farmers to take their first green step, whatever that may be.

  • Philippe Porché is a good example of how one step leads to another. In 2004 he founded his Saumur-Champigny estate, Domaine de Rocheville, choosing Terra Vitis certification as the best sustainable option.

  • “At that time,” says Porché, “the organic label only concerned organically grown grapes, whereas Terra Vitis controlled the entire process from the vine to the bottle. When the organic certification evolved and began to control more strictly the grape production process as well as the winemaking process, we opted for it in 2016.

Rhône Valley, France: Brad Pitt has launched a skincare range featuring active ingredients sourced from Famille Perrin’s Château de Beaucastel vineyard in the Rhône Valley. Decanter

  • The products are made from organic matter that was previously discarded after the grapes had been pressed. Le Domaine Skincare’s packaging also includes recyclable glass bottles and jars, and reusable stoppers made of oak cut from the scraps of the vineyard’s wine barrels.

Diversity & Equity

Bay area, California: An interview with Theodora Lee owner and founder of Theopolis Vineyards in Mendocino.  North Bay Business Journal

  • A trailblazer for people of color and women in the industry, she started her vineyard in 2003; while also maintaining a full-time job as a as a senior partner and trial lawyer at Littler Mendelson, the world’s largest labor and employment law firm. She was the first African American woman to be a managing partner at the Oakland branch of the firm.

  • She recounts her start in the industry, inspired by her father who had a farm near Dallas and taught her how to drive a tractor; mentored by a colleague and her husband who owned a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.  

  • She markets her wines directly – relying on winemaker dinners and events throughout the country to engage a growing community of 5-6,000 people on while investing in her digital presence. She has a team of people to help her maintain her social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and sends a quarterly newsletter.

  • She has also donated $70,000 to create a fund to help viticulture and enology students at the University of California at Davis pursue their degree.

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