What Pairs Well With a Glass of 190g CO2 Sauvignon Blanc?

New Zealand winery prints carbon footprint on bottle labels

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It’s not uncommon in our technology-obsessed society for common sense to be tossed aside in favor of robotic gadgetry and whiz-bang statistics that look impressive but don’t really convey relevant information. Case in point: winery Mobius Marlborough’s new bottle labeling campaign.

The New Zealand winemaker’s sauvignon blanc bottles now feature the calculated carbon footprint of each glass of wine printed on the label. In other words, the labels will convey the amount of CO2 generated by the growing, harvesting, winemaking, bottling, and shipping of the wine. As The Guardian newspaper reports: “Experts estimate that a 750ml bottle of wine [shipped from New Zealand to the U.K.] at 190g CO2 per glass equates roughly to the carbon emissions released by a three-mile car journey.”

Kudos to Mobius Marlborough for its well-intentioned decision, but upon closer examination, the carbon footprint label also creates a couple of interesting quandaries.

First, how are consumers supposed to use this new information? If one were to quaff two glasses of Mobius Marlborough sauvignon blanc—equivalent to a six-mile car trip—should automobile travel be curtailed until the balance is evened out? And if limiting driving isn’t an option, should the oenophile in question simply feel guilty about the CO2 expended to deliver their libationary pleasure?

Beyond the difficulty of analyzing the numbers on the label in a useful context, this is a case of common sense falling by the wayside. If a wine enthusiast is concerned with their carbon footprint, it would make more sense to just buy locally-produced wine. Of course, such an approach is significantly easier if one lives in California, Tuscany, Bordeaux, or another wine-producing region, but even a wine drinker in London could opt for a French sauvignon blanc over one from New Zealand, consequently lowering the wine’s carbon footprint by eliminating hundreds of miles of shipping.

Naturally, such a suggestion goes against the base concept of a global economy model, but maybe starting to re-examine some of the fundamental precepts of global trade is a worthwhile exercise. After all, if the world economy continues the unabated shipping of products around the globe via the burning of fossil fuels, the ensuing environmental harm will be much greater than any number on a label could ever convey.

David Lawlor was a writer in the Development department. His environmental activism stems from an affinity for nature and the deep ecology philosophy espoused by the Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess.