Wine Production and its impact on our Environment

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Written by: Sheridan Collins

Alcohol is a part of everyday lives for most people across the entire world, from cheap nights to the most celebrated occasions of people’s lives, you are likely to find some form of wine in some quantity. Wine has been a part of human culture for many millennia with scientists dating the oldest wine to 9,000 years old[1]. Since then the process for harvesting and creating wine has been refined and adjusted for mass production to provide for countries all over the globe. New Zealand has boasted a young and upcoming esteemed contributor to the wine industry. Understanding the impacts that producing wine has on our environment can help us reduce the stress of said impacts.

Wine previously was made using a lot of manual labour – hand picking, sorting, crushing and transportation. Now a lot of these processes have been substituted for mechanical alternatives to maintain high level efficiency as in 2018, New Zealand produced 301.7 million litres[2]. With the greater use of machinery, greater environmental costs are involved to support the running of these machines and is where the greatest impact comes from along with packaging[3]. Hand picking has been swapped for machines that mechanically harvest the grapes as is drives down the vines, these grapes are then sorted on conveyor belts, removing stems and unsuitable grapes. This process involving the raw materials accounts for 0.8kg CO2 equivalent emission per bottle[4] .

The total CO2 equivalent emission per bottle is 1.28kg (based off Verdejo wines from Spain)[5]. When this figure is compared to wine productions in New Zealand, the total CO2 equivalent emission in 2018 would be 5.149×108kg (assuming average bottle size of 750mL). This considers the CO2 released during the fermentation process as well as the CO2 released in the equipment used during manufacturing and processing to get to the finished product.

The other main concern with wine production is the impact packaging has on our resources. Wine bottles are traditionally made with glass, while very few have transitioned to plastic bottles, such as Peter Yealands[6], glass remains the first choice. This has its problems and its positives. Glass requires twice as much energy to produce than plastic[7] as the fossil fuels burned to reach the required temperatures releases 6 times the gases that plastic production does. But glass has a higher recycling rate.

Wine production does release a large quantity of greenhouse gases, and with the high volume of wine made in the world, sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives must be looked at to reduce the impact from this industry.

[1] Borrell, B. (2019). The Origin of Wine. Retrieved from

[2] New Zealand Winegrowers Inc. (2018). Annual Report. Retrieved from

[3] van der Zanden, G. (2009). Retrieved from

[4] Getting it Straight: Exact Carbon Emissions From One Bottle of Wine – iPoint Blog. (2019). Retrieved from

[5] Getting it Straight: Exact Carbon Emissions From One Bottle of Wine – iPoint Blog. (2019). Retrieved from

[6] Yealands Wine Sustainability. (2019). Retrieved from

[7] Is Glass Or Plastic Better For The Environment?. (2019). Retrieved from