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Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find

Sustainability - ‘the capacity to endure’. Wine is one pleasure that with good husbandry may endure as long as humanity itself

Justin Knock Cobevco

If anything is obvious about sustainability, it’s the extent to which it has infiltrated the modern lexicon.  Its definition - ‘the capacity to endure’ – is passive. But we know it implies much more: balance, conservation, respect and taking the long view. Sustainability is both specific and vague, and that’s part of its charisma – a complex identity that must be cloaked in tailor-made attire every time it is used in a different context, otherwise it has no meaning. It must always be framed by specifics, details, objectives and ultimately achievements. It is a plan with a call to action.

Sustainability is about taking individual action to collective problems, and there are already many examples of wineries and associated businesses taking steps to avoid using pesticides and herbicides, reduce their use of energy, water and chemicals, re-use water, wastewater and grape marc, and recycle glass and packaging. Arguably, the greatest benefits come from eliminating that which could be seen as unavoidable, such as shipping glass bottles, and instead using more environmentally-friendly methods such as bulk filling and packaging in the country of destination.

The wine industry is already sustainable, in ways that other primary industries are not – North Sea oil and gas, blue-fin tuna fishing, or cotton farming in Australia, to name but a few. To some extent, the wine industry is also not a developed industry but a cottage one, and to become ‘more sustainable’, does not require the level of investment in de-industrialisation as others.

The knowledge that grapes have adapted to and been grown in countless different environments, providing wine and thus sustenance, pleasure and a livelihood to thousands of local cultures for centuries, speaks of our enduring commitment to communities, ecosystems and economies. At its best, the production of wine embodies the concept of sustainability almost like no other global industry.

Yet, at times, the wine trade is hard on itself. By and large, we seek to do the right thing, respectfully and generously, for the long-term, for the environment and for local communities. Wine producers are often multi-generational, family businesses, tenacious, determined and stubborn in their will to pursue an idea or dream, and to survive. All of this embodies both the definition and the spirit of sustainability. An outsider’s perspective might be that, on balance, wine is one pleasure that with good husbandry may endure as long as humanity itself. I wonder how many other industries muse so hopefully.

In time, sustainability may come to mean more than just the capacity to endure. It may be the ultimate epitaph on humanity’s headstone of a long life, well lived – accompanied by a glass of wine, of course.

Cobevco is a market leader in specialist bottling. Bottling wine, beer, cider, spirits and soft drinks at its purpose-built plant in Elton, Cheshire, the company works with producers, importers and merchants from all over the world

29 August 2013