23 April 2024, Adega Belém at The Big Fortified Tasting, Church House, London

 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Small actions at every step rather than loud barking where it is most audible

We are committed to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of our winemaking activities. We also take responsibility and constructive initiatives to make our industry as a whole better at every visible and less visible step of the production chain. This translates in very concrete proposals for legislators to create normative frameworks that will at medium term significantly reduce the environmental impact of the wine industry as a whole. This starts with the way the grapes are grown, includes how water, energy and waste are managed in the winery, and ends with the choice of packing materials and modes of transport to get the final product to our clients, and back into the productive cycle. It also includes how we mediate all of these aspects to the many clients we receive at our cellar door, especially the responsibility of both producers AND consumers.

Locally and manually harvested grapes

We hand-harvest our grapes at vineyards located within a few kilometers from the winery in Belém hence significantly reducing the environmental impact of heavy harvest machines and transportation. The vineyards are located in biologically diverse ecosystems with mixed environmental areas including rivers, fruit orchards, hedges, forests, meadows and of course vineyards.

Sustainable Packaging Design

We use lightweight glass bottles for all our wines. This reduces the carbon footprint during bottle production, transport and recycling by 30% compared to a standard 600gr bottle, and by more than 60% compared to a heavy “luxurious” wine bottle weighting more than 1,2 kg.  For us, this means a relatively important commercial sacrifice as a majority of consumers continues to associate high wine quality and value with heavier and more ostentatious bottle models. We are actively lobbying here for a change in the public aesthetics of wine bottles  in order to make ultra lightweight bottles a new standard.

We also lobby for the creation of a series of European standard wine bottles that can be re-used (instead of being recycled), consuming only 30% of the energy that would be necessary to recycle.  We understand that wine is a very internationalized industry with bottles circulating in various export markets. Hence we advocate that only public policy regulation at an international level (starting for example at EU level) will generate viability for the creation of larger-scale bottle cleaning facilities, as they exist in the beer  brewing industry for example.These could be easily run by the existing organizations that currently deal with packaging waste at national EU country levels.

To reuse bottles also implies adapting the material used for bottle labels to detach these more easily once the wine has been drunk, like the paper labels on jam jars or beer bottles for example. In the past 20 years, paper labels in the wine sector have gone the opposite way and became highly water resistant, using heavy sophisticated papers and clue that does require chemical agents to be dissolved. While these provide a bottle presentation that even after hours or days in the fridge still look and feel pristine, it seems the wrong way to go if we think about an integrated solution to re-use – and hence clean and sanitize – standard wine bottles in a near future.

Regarding cardboard boxes to transport wine bottles, we must say as much as we like the European packaging waste initiative in its principle, it is on the ground very hard to implement especially for the very large number of smaller wine producers that define the wine sector in Europe. The current system of creating a packing waste treatment “account” in every single EU member state is very costly in some countries, extremely complicated in other countries, and eventually only viable in a handful of EU member states. We are happy to talk to government executives or legislators about how we feel this could be made more operational on the ground.

We use naturally grown high quality and carbon neutral cork produced in Portugal, with a significantly lower impact than any other type of synthetic cork or metallic cap screw. From 2023, we no longer use bottle capsules as these do not contribute in any way to the quality of the wine.

Chemical-agent-free steam cleaning

Since 2021, we use a hot steam generator to sanitize all of our cellar equipment, tanks and oak barrels. This allows us to reduce to close to zero the use of aggressive, high-pH chemical cleaning agents and thus produce pH-neutral waste water.

Inverter technology

We have invested in energy saving inverter technology that allows our pumps and cooling machines to consume only exactly the amount of energy that is needed by the system at each given moment.

Packaging material

We use recycled paperboard and cardboard for all our packaging and comply with the recycling programs of the countries to which we deliver. We continue to refuse to work with delivery companies that require compulsory polystyrene bottle packaging, which we believe is totally out of line with current knowledge and technology. We live by the sea and can actually observe, with every large high tide, the sheer amount of small polystyrene bubbles swept up at the beach. We do not want to see our packing material end up this way.

Grey Water Treatment

When conceiving the winery, we have included a waste water treatment plant under the floor of the cellar door. You can actually see the four manhole covers under the large table, which give maintenance access to the treatment plant. This system reduces the biomaterial impact (CBO) by more than 90%. The rest is easily dealt with by the public water treatment plant our neighborhood.

Reducing the wine industry´s impact on oceans

We live and work by, and with, the ocean and have spent a lot of time thinking about how we – and other wine producers – can reduce their impact upon these oceans. We have put together some very concrete actions that will help to reduce this impact. Here goes a list of action.

What the wine industry can do to reduce its environmental impact on oceans

  • Manage their energy footprint by using ultra-light weight bottles which tremendously reduce long-term material and energy costs all along the value and recycling chain of glass bottles
  • Use bio-compostable packaging that can be recycled, like PLA plastics and recycled cellulose products. Stop using polystyrene!
  • Treat your winery’s waste water before it goes into the public sewage system, especially during vintage when waste water has a very high CBO
  • Use energy efficient inverter technology for pumps, motors and cooling systems in the winery, creating very significantly less long term costs for everyone
  • Visit Adega Belém Urban Winery where you can see these measures at work, and discuss with us where we can get even better!

What wine consumers can do to reduce the industry’s environmental impact on oceans

  • Don’t buy wines in heavy or ultra heavy bottles, even if these look more prestigious. Heavy glass bottles do not increase the quality of wine and are strictly ostentatious.
  • Don’t accept mail orders that use polystyrene wrapping.
  • Ask your wine seller what measures the wineries take to minimise their energy and waste impact.
  • Ask your politicians to create legislation to make wine traceable with regard to their respective vineyards and wineries!
  • Rather pay more for wine made with love for the environment, the product and the consumer!
  • Visit us at Adega Belém Urban Winery, to discuss these issues – over a glass of delicious wine.