Europe is home to some of the most important wine regions in the world. With the wine harvest currently taking place across the continent, here are five LIFE projects that are working to make the sector more adaptable to climate change and more sustainable.
A key element of the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to increase organic farming and biodiversity-rich landscape features on agricultural land, including vineyards. Also, through the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission wants to make food systems like viticulture fair, healthy and environmentally friendly.
Also, a number of LIFE projects are helping Europe’s winegrowers avoid any environmental hangover. See a selection below.
Boosting biodiversity in a German winegrowing region
Climate change is taking its toll on Europe’s vineyards, with winegrowers increasingly faced with drought, heavy rainfall and winter windstorms. The LIFE VinEcoS team helped winegrowers adapt to climate change and boosted biodiversity at vineyards across the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. To do this, they added multifunctional seed mixtures to increase the variety of life and to reduce soil erosion on steep slopes. Results show that the number of plant species was more than three times higher than in conventionally sown plots. Bee species were more than four times higher than previously, while the number of butterfly species was up by 50%.
Sustainable wine production in Spain
Spain’s Priorat wine region is struggling from the impact of climate change on the quantity and quality of its wine. It is also faced with stiff market competition from third countries. Winemakers need to improve efficiency while preserving the quality of soil, water sources and biodiversity. LIFE Priorat + Montsant developed a sustainable viticultural and wine production model for the region. The team provided irrigation recommendations to 16 wineries and winegrowers on 200 hectares, an area the size of Monaco. The savings in water use on these plots range from 25% to 35%. This approach could be used by other wineries across Priorat. In addition, the team vastly reduced the number of chemical fertilisers being used and created a manual of good practices on water and energy consumption.
An innovative approach to viticulture in Italy
Controlling plant diseases has become more difficult because pathogens are becoming resistant to commercial fungicides. To get around this, the LIFE GREEN GRAPES team aims to stimulate plants’ natural defences by using innovative and natural products. They are testing the effectiveness of predictive crop protection models, agronomical techniques and foliar (leaf) treatments on vine plants. This will help reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides, improve harvest quality and enhance biodiversity.
French project helps improve vineyard management
As well as being affected by climate change, viticulture contributes to it. France’s LIFE-ADVICLIM project team studied adaptation and mitigation scenarios at various European vineyards. They also developed an online measurement tool and a web platform to help winegrowers assess the impacts of climate change on their land and measure the greenhouse gas emissions coming from their work. Five European vineyards participated in the project: Cotnari (Romania), Rheingau (Germany), Bordeaux (France), Sussex (UK) and Val-de-Loire (France).
Collect. Clean. Reuse. Repeat.
Spain’s Catalonia region produces around 180 million wine bottles and 200 million cava bottles each year. But only 57% of these are recycled. The rest is sent to landfill. The reWINE project team trialled wine bottle collection, cleaning and reuse across the region. Seven wineries, 30 shops, 50 restaurants, two wholesalers, three waste collection centres and two bottle washing plants all took part. The team estimates that reusing the 82 000 bottles collected during the trial has saved more than 170 000 kg of CO2. This is equivalent to the emissions from a vehicle travelling around the world 11 times. They also say that reusing bottles could reduce Catalonia’s wine-making sector's carbon footprint by up to 28%.
Image: LIFE15 CCA/DE/000103. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
- 8 September 2021