How to become a wine without waste drinker

It seems that finally the zero waste movement is taking off in Saigon with some great people working very hard, and usually for free, to change minds and habits in Vietnam, and turn this lovely country into a much lovelier, cleaner one. But if you are a wine drinker, and you favor zero waste and the environment, is there anything you can do to support this while still enjoying great wine?

Yes, you can start by telling your suppliers what you want from the point of view of buying and drinking what we call “greener wines.” Not green because of the color or because its high acidity (which is where the name vinho verde comes from in Portugal), but regarding how wines are being produced and transported.

The first problem you will find is that most wineries selling wine to Asia and Vietnam follow the country’s demand for packaging in order to sell more. Sadly, in most Asian countries customers favor big heavy bottles that look better, and because wine is still a preferred luxury present for many, they chose the heaviest bottles available. In fact, many wineries offer the same wine with different bottle (and price) options. So start by saying no to heavy bottles: The quality and weight of the glass will not affect the taste or quality of the wine, but will definitely affect the CO2 emissions needed for its production and transport. A ‘premium’ bottle can weight over three times that of a normal or lightweight one. Some countries, like Canada, are in the process of making it unlawful to ship wine in bottles over a certain weight.

The second way you can help the environment is by saying no to the extra packaging. Here again Vietnam follows most of Asia where people are willing to pay more for the packaging than for the wine, and most of the nice looking luxury packaged wines are low-end wines in beautiful boxes. That’s okay if you don’t plan to drink them; it’s like having a Ferrari with no engine.

But perhaps where you can make the biggest difference, and not only within Vietnam’s scope, is when you are picky about how wines are being produced. If you visit commercial wineries, and many of the popular brands are, you will see that in most of these places wine production does not differ much from any manufacturing facility. Almost everything is mechanized, huge consumption of electricity from pressing to delivering the wines. But the problems don’t end there because the care of the vineyards and wine making process are also affected by the huge usage of pesticides and many other chemical products that not only affect the environment but also your body.

If you want to avoid this, ask your suppliers about how their particular wines are being made, and if they don’t know, it means they did not or question it while sourcing. In general, organic wines are likely to be more environmentally friendly and nowadays taste as good, if not better, than normal wines. You can also inquire about the wineries, for example boutique wineries like Aroa in Northern Spain are certified not only organic but to produce zero CO2 emission. There are many more like them, so let’s go green!