Food waste is a big problem across all industries, with a third of the food produced every year being lost (not making it to its final destination) or wasted, at a cost of around $940 billion. The global wine industry alone creates around 12 million tons of waste each year, so it’s no surprise that the beverage business is innovating to make strides in sustainability.
In Aberdeen, Scotland, a small winery called Two Raccoons has started making wine from fruit that would otherwise go to waste, while in Kent, England, Westwell Wines has partnered with skincare brand Pelegrims to make facial oils and other beauty products from leftover grape seeds, skins, and stems. California’s Jackson Family Wines is even creating dark chocolate bars from grape waste.
The winemaking byproduct is known as grape marc (or pomace) and consists of the pulp, skin and seed that is leftover after pressing. Making 750ml of wine (a standard size bottle) uses around 1.17kg of grapes, about 20% of which is made up of this so-called waste product.
Michael Jordan, master sommelier and director of global key accounts at Jackson Family Wines explains that this “grape marc makes up the largest underutilized by-product from winemaking, with over 1.1 million tons generated in 2019 in California.” This substrate is dried and milled so it retains nutrients, yet can easily be added to various foodstuffs or supplements.
Science appears to back this up. A recent study found that chardonnay marc can contain oligosaccharides that can benefit intestinal health. Jordan believes this waste-saving technology of using the whole grape “is a great development that will undoubtedly become a long-term sustainable standard in the wine industry.”
While these sustainable processes may seem like a new trend, pomace has been made into the Italian liquor known as Grappa since the Middle Ages. Much like with wine, high-quality grapes produce a higher quality of Grappa so even this “waste” has different nuances to it.
There are other ways to embrace sustainability in the winemaking industry, of course. In a push to create a zero-waste workflow, Aberdeen’s Two Raccoons winery plans to even use the leftover fruit pulp that isn’t fermented into wine into wormeries. Jackson Family Wines has taken steps to reduce water consumption and power their operations via renewable sources like wind and solar panels. And a British winery called The English Vine is currently experimenting with the UK’s first paper bottle as a way to reduce bottle weight. (Transport and glass packaging account for 68% of the wine industry’s carbon footprint.)
Jordan believes there is still much room for growth within the sustainable wine industry, at all junctures of the supply chain. “From vineyard development and farming to packaging and local distribution, there is still much room for innovation and progress,” he says.
As carbon neutral wines start hitting our shelves, with all parts of the grapes being used and sustainable innovation continuing to become more mainstream, wine has vast potential to become one of the world’s most eco-friendly and zero-waste beverages, appealing to a new generation of conscious consumers.