The illustrious history of the wine industry is full of tales of ingenuity and resilience. Across the centuries, we’ve seen humans work with nature – sometimes against all odds – to craft that little luxury that makes everyday moments a bit special.

Whilst all sectors are affected by the climate crisis to some degree, the wine industry is arguably at the coalface, with warmer, drier climates impacting yields and motivating innovations from solar powered machinery to experiments with drought-resistant varietals. It’s a challenging but exciting time for the wine industry – general consensus suggests that bringing sustainable practices from the fringe to the mainstream will be key to securing a brighter future. But for this gear shift to really gain momentum, we need to bring consumers on the journey with us so that the right thing to do also makes good commercial sense.

So where does the consumer fit into the picture? And is there demand for ‘sustainable wine’? We know that consumers are making more environmentally conscious choices across the board, but we also know that they tend to choose wine according to country of origin, varietal, and if in doubt, the ‘seal of approval’ from a recognisable brand or appellation. They are broadly aware of descriptors like ‘organic’, ‘vegan’ and ‘biodynamic’ in relation to wine, but don’t necessarily know what they mean, and more importantly, aren’t sure how they’ll impact the taste. In other words, curiosity towards sustainable wine may not translate into a purchase if a tried-and-tested alternative is sitting next to it on a shelf.

However, the times they are a-changing, and fast. As the eco-conscious Gen Z comes of age, we’re likely to see increasing comfort with – and demand for – wine that tastes good and does good, for the planet, workers and local communities. There are a number of steps that the wine and hospitality industries can take to face into this challenge…

1. Find your quirky, eco-story


It’s in the spirit of wine production to work in harmony with local environments, and many producers have embraced this philosophy, to reduce their carbon impact. Whether it’s the babydoll sheep that ‘mow’ the grass at Yealands in New Zealand or the 9,500 solar panels powering Treasury Wine Estates’ wineries in Australia, there are many compelling eco-stories in the world of wine that deserve to be heard and celebrated. This is partly about carving out a distinctive identity and adding a touch of personality to your brand, but it also helps consumers see the positive, tangible contribution they’d be making by buying your products.

If you’re a producer that’s passionate about sustainable methods, tell your eco-story! But it has to be true, of course – the crowds aren’t kind to greenwashers, and rightly so.

2. Make discovery easy and exciting.

Let’s make it easier for consumers to find their new favourite wine. Spurred on by Covid, we’ve seen a surge in consumers experimenting with new cuisines, ingredients and palate sensations. We’d expect the same to be true of wine – but perhaps we need to make the process of discovery easier and more accessible. Creating opportunities for consumers to experiment with new varietals, discover natural and biodynamic wine, and try out new and unusual pairings will help them wander from their tried-and-tested paths and expand their repertoires.

This could be as simple as a vegan wine and cheese tasting or a flight of biodynamic wines on promotion. Specialist natural wine bars – like Weino BIB – are springing up around town and there is room for more! Key to accessibility is format (various options, small servings) and context (what does it ‘go’ with, when would you drink it). Ultimately, it’s all about taking the risk – ‘what if I don’t like it?’ – out of the first taste and leaving space for discovery.

3. Break away from the bottle.

We know that packaging is a substantial contributor to the wine industry’s carbon footprint – glass bottles are heavy to transport, awkward to stack and (often) not ‘as recyclable’ as they seem. But they are iconic and – unhelpfully – heavier bottles have come to symbolise premium wines. However, there is plenty of innovation in this space: there is a collective drive from environmentally-conscious winemakers towards thinner glass bottles, made in energy efficient furnaces from recycled materials. ‘When in Rome’ have done away with glass altogether: their attractive paper wine bottles have a carbon footprint up to 84% lower than a single-use glass bottle.

When in Rome

We’ve also seen the tide turning for boxed wines. Once the antithesis of a quality wine experience, we’re seeing premium wine options springing up in boxed formats. Award-winning Laylo wines are boxed in attractive, art-covered packaging that keeps the equivalent of three bottles of quality wine fresh for up to six weeks. There is perhaps some work to be done to break the perceptual link between premium wine and the bottle format – and naturally it isn’t a solution for aged or sparkling wines – but no doubt savvy consumers will be keen to hear of the additional benefits of boxed wine with no sacrifice on taste.

Laylo wine

4. Champion local producers.

Arguably there will always be a place for imported wine – when you have a hankering for a Pauillac, only a Pauillac will do. However, as consumers become curious about ‘new’, lesser-known wine regions, we can help them make discoveries in their own ‘back yards’. The trend towards hyper-local and farm-to-table restaurants indicates a desire to connect with the origin of the food we eat – and what better to wash it down than a fine glass of local wine?

English and Welsh wines have made great strides in recent years to earn their place on restaurant menus, and consumer demand is following suit. Championing local and up-and-coming producers is a way for retailers and the hospitality industry to show their commitment to reducing the carbon impact of transporting stock, promoting local enterprise, and helping consumers connect with their local environments.

Want to find out more?

Get in touch with our People & Planet team to talk about how we can help you inspire and excite consumers, experiment with new packaging, and find your distinctive brand eco-story.

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