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Champagne Seeks Lighter Footprint

Posted by Sheila Shayon on September 1, 2010 02:51 PM

Eco-consciousness has hit the elixir of intoxicants. France's Champagne industry is going green, trying to make amends for an estimated 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted each year. The largest part of that destructive footprint is its typically heavy bottle.

Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, made the glass thicker in the 1600’s to help control the bottles from exploding. His distinctive bottle design came to embody the luxuriant nature of the contents, and the imbibing experience.

Fast-forward to the 1970’s, when the bottle’s standard weight had augmented to two pounds each. Now, the Champagne industry—which accounts for 10% of three billion bottles of sparkling wine annually—intends to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2020, and 75% by 2050.

“This is how we’re remaking the future of Champagne. We’re slimming the shoulders to make the bottle lighter, so our carbon footprint will be reduced to help keep Champagne here for future generations,” Thierry Gasco, master vintner for France's famed Pommery branded champagne, told the New York Times.

Pommery was the first to obtain ISO 14001 environmental certification more than ten years ago for their sustainable growing practices, energy and water conservation, and waste management.

Its POP Earth label was introduced to “bring attention to the principles of ethics, as well as corporate and environmental governance.”

“It’s important to understand that the process of making POP Earth is the same as the process used for all of Pommery’s Champagnes. POP Earth is the celebration and result of Pommery’s environmental initiative over the past 12-14 years,” comments Gasco.

Pommery has even prevailed upon their staff to commute to work by train rather than car for the past two years.

Pommery’s parent company, Vranken-Pommery Monopole, which also owns Heidsieck, began using lighter bottles in 2003. Veuve Cliquot and Moët & Chandon now have champagne in those lighter bottles fermenting in their cellars.

The design of the lighter bottles was a challenge, as they must withstand extreme pressure and a four-year journey from factory to wine cellar to consumer’s consumption.

According to Gasco, Vranken Pommery, one of the larger houses, has spent between $635,000 to $1.3 million annually since 1994 on environmental initiatives.

It only makes the Champagne nectar sweeter, knowing the new lighter bottles will be impacting Mother Nature less and still constraining “the devil’s wine” from exploding.

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