• Jane Anson - Source: www.decanter.com

Why we need ethical fine wine

Jane Anson proposes a new approach for how we categorise fine wine, with the emphasis on environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

How much should social responsibility and environmental credentials be used to define fine wine? Credit: CALIN STAN / Alamy

Isn't it about time we started defining 'fine wine' by how seriously the producer is about taking care of the land and the people who work on it?

And that means not only applauding the ones that do, but seriously questioning the ones that don't.

This long overdue correction was at the heart of a panel discussion on social sustainability that I chaired during the Fine Minds for Fine Wines event, held by the Areni Institute last week.

The idea was to look at social and environmental sustainability programmes currently underway, but I came away thinking that the only way for things to truly change long-term is if we have a wholesale redefinition of what a luxury wine should encapsulate.

Reducing impact

There’s a quiet revolution going on; look at the wave of start-ups designing clothes that have less impact on the planet.

These include Allbirds sustainable wool shoes and Unbound Merino, which uses fabrics that that need far less washing. Then there is Patagonia, the clothing company that famously took out a full page ad in the New York Times detailing the environmental impact of manufacturing its jackets, and asking people to think twice before buying them.

It's been noted many times that the wine industry needs to take the lead in environmental discussions, because it's among those on the front-line of the impact of climate change; a message that is particularly timely with AOC Bordeaux announcing the inclusion of new grapes as a response to rising temperatures.

Antoine Gerbelle, a French journalist with Tellement Soif, pulled up Saskia de Rothschild on Twitter this week for saying in an interview that Lafite is not organic or biodynamic because not every vintage is favourable.

'A wine that sells at $500 per bottle?' Gerbelle said. 'Look no further for the authors of Bordeaux bashing - they do it themselves.'

But the conversation needs to go much further than organics or biodynamics, and recognise that there's also an increasing need for transparency about social sustainability in luxury wine estates.

I've never heard of a Bordeaux château, for example, raising their wine price by 50% in a good vintage, such as 2010, and then using some of that profit to pass on to the pickers who brought in the grapes.

It might happen, but if so the estates are not doing a good job of communicating about it.

Gerbelle's outrage was echoed on the sustainability panel by Ixchel Delaporte, author of Les Raisins de la Misère, published in 2018, turning the spotlight on, as she sees it, 'Bordeaux's corridor of poverty' along the D2 road that runs past Médoc’s top châteaux.

Last week she chastised the châteaux owners present at the event for the vast inequalities in the region and the way that seasonal workers are treated.

Delaporte is relatively easy for châteaux owners to dismiss, because she's so single-minded in her presentation that she over-generalises and gets things wrong.

It is of course also way too easy to target Bordeaux for issues that are found world over, but all the Bordeaux estates that aim to make a luxury product would do well to listen to the message rather than bristle at its delivery.

The simple truth is that there has to be more to luxury today than wines that taste wonderful and have a history that most of us can only dream of.

Read the full article at: https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/news-blogs-anson/ethical-wine-sustainability-420945/

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