Carbon footprint: should wine be shipped in bulk tanks?

Should wine be imported in bulk tanks to the country of consumption and then bottled there? It reduces the carbon footprint of wine. But what about the quality?

At the London International Wine & Spirits Fair (LIWSF) today, a group made such a case. The Waste & Resources Action Programme presented a paper study today arguing for the efficiencies. They no doubt have a commercial interest to gain in such a switch but here’s an example of their reasoning:

“Shipping wine from Australia [to the UK] in bulk reduces CO2 emissions by 164g for each 75cl bottle, or approximately 40% when compared to bottling at source,” they write. They continue to say that 10,584 liters of bottled wine fits in one container versus 25,000 liters of wine in a bulk tank. (But did they count for the bottles making a round trip?)

My initial reaction to this would be a big “no tanks.” After all, shipping and rail have to be so much incredibly more efficient from a carbon perspective than trucking or (gasp!) air.

As a wine geek, I’m worried about quality first and carbon second. But I recently had the charming Terra Rosa malbec from Argentina, which is brought to California for bottling so it may not be such a dire tradeoff. As long as everything is properly labeled, maybe there is a future for entry-level wines to be transported this way.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

Related: “Bottling Wine in a Changing Climate” [WRAP]

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9 Responses to “Carbon footprint: should wine be shipped in bulk tanks?”

  1. Eco-conscious as I like to consider myself, it’s hard to imagine that all wines would end up as intended if shipped this way and bottled at the destination country. Can you imagine a Brunello, which is aged in barrel for years and then in bottle for a significant period of time, being able to keep its integrity if transported in this manner? This seems plausible only for super-large production/bulk wine (what you call entry level) but for smaller and artisinal producers? I’m pretty open to new concepts and I’m not a total terroir-ist, but this notion seems a bit drastic to me and removes the sense of place from wine in far too many senses, literally, figuratively, and otherwise.

  2. ho ho ho – a tanker of Brunello. Yes, I think we should be most carbon efficient with that one and deliver it all to my house! 😉

    As I said, I’m skeptical. But that Terra Rosa is good. So it can be done. Whether it should be done is an open question. I think I’d rather take my carbon footprint into my own hands and, say, not drive to the store, but still buy estate bottled wine.

  3. Didn’t they used to do that with Bordeaux? Send it by ship in barrel to England, and bottle it there?

  4. ha yes – ironically, in a pre-carbon era.

    But into the carbon era too. The negociant scandals from the 1970s really swung the pendulum back toward estate bottling.

  5. I’m being rather flippant but you could remove most of the water and ship as concentrate. This would be even more efficient.

  6. Ha Paul. Indeed. This WRAP paper has gotten a lot of press about how bulk shipment reduces the carbon footprint but nobody talks about the quality! Your comment makes this point succinctly.

  7. […] Mendoza, makes the wine on location, then ships it back to California for bottling and an admirably reduced carbon footprint. The cost-savings results in a wine of character, with good fruit and a pleasant and unusual level […]

  8. You’re kidding me.

    People drive to and from work every day, and read this blog post on computers and monitors totalling 100-150W of power (many of which are left on all day every day), or perhaps reading this on a flight across the continent on their laptops and we’re worrying about the CO2 footprint of our wine habits?

    Ridiculous. I cant think of a better example of people trying to feel good about fixing their Co2 footprint while actually not doing anything tangible.

    Stop driving! Stop flying! Stop supporting huge racks of servers that run this blog and chew up 150W per machine! Then we’ll worry about wine.

  9. […] Mendoza, makes the wine on location, then ships it back to California for bottling and an admirably reduced carbon footprint. The cost-savings results in a wine of character, with good fruit and a pleasant and unusual level […]


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