20 minutes With: environmental award winner of the wine industry, Bárbara Wolff – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Winemaking is essentially an agricultural activity, where the effects of climate change are felt in the vineyard day after day. It may be easier for small, independent producers to react quickly. Small challenges become big challenges for VSPT Wine Group, one of the top 20 wine producers in the world. It’s good that Bárbara Wolff, Head of Corporate Affairs and Innovation at VSPT, sees a great challenge as a great opportunity.

In the 13 years since the group was formed through a merger between two Chilean wine companies, Wolff has driven far-reaching organizational changes, including a shift to 100% renewable energy across the portfolio. Her efforts were recently recognized at the Green Awards 2021, an industry event organized by Drinks Business, when she was named ‘Green Personality of the Year’.

Wolff, 46, doesn’t stop there. Future goals include a goal to make the company carbon positive by 2050, which means going beyond “net zero” to remove additional carbon from the atmosphere. “We understand as a society, as a producer and as an industry that every wine has to deal with it,” she says. “We all have to work together. We need to share new knowledge and new solutions to reach the goal which is: “Hey! Stop the climate crisis!’ There’s still a world to do, so we need to make sure we do that.”

Wolff spoke up penta about their recent achievements and their aspirations, the role of consumers and the state of sustainability across the wine industry.

PENTA: Can you tell me a little about what the award means and what it means to you?

Barbara Wolff: It’s been a journey, but it’s been a team effort, not just me. First of all it makes me very proud, very happy, this is an award that recognizes the last 13 years of my career. It’s also very challenging for me in terms of the next goals we need to achieve and looking ahead to the next bigger challenges we need to tackle. When we first started talking about the climate crisis, this was less urgent, and today it’s something that’s accelerating, and the timeline is accelerating towards us much faster. I think we’ve done a lot of nice work, but the challenge is that, OK, this is the new plateau, now let’s start making even more impactful goals.

One of the long-term goals you mentioned is not only to be carbon neutral, but also to be carbon positive. Can you describe what that means in practice?

That is the long-term goal that we have today as a winery. Of course, we will set intermediate targets such as a 25% reduction by 2024 and a 50% reduction by 2030. This great goal requires many changes throughout our production chain, from the vineyard to the final destination. To name a few, you need a 100% renewable energy grid, which we have achieved so far, but not just to buy renewable energy, but to generate energy yourself. Today we generate almost 40% of our electricity needs.

Another initiative to tackle is [in] the field or the vineyards, and what we do is work on two different agendas. The first is to reduce the use of agrochemicals, especially those with high emission factors…. The other thing we started working on is understanding the potential for carbon sequestration in the vineyard, for example through cover crops. The third initiative to achieve this goal of becoming carbon positive has to do with packaging and transport, which accounts for almost 40% of our carbon footprint. One of the things we’re addressing is the importance of lowering the overall weight of our bottles, especially the heavier ones. Today there is this perhaps ignorance in the idea that better wine comes in a heavier bottle, so the heavier the bottle, the better the wine. Why not challenge the paradigm to create a sense that the better the wine, the lighter the bottle?

What should people pay attention to or pay attention to at home who care about supporting sustainable wineries?

You should try to inform yourself before making a purchase decision, and here too we as the manufacturer have a responsibility. We need to make this information more visible and easily accessible. In fact, we try to implement QR codes on back labels in 100% of our portfolio. Once you read it, you can see how the wine is made, under what standards it was made, and it also invites you to properly recycle and dispose of the final packaging after consumption.

In your opinion, how important is sustainability for wine consumers and are you seeing an increasing focus on this?

Overall yes, according to the studies we’ve seen recently from Wine Intelligence, for example. Mainly the European markets, Canada, Japan; other countries may be lagging behind. The funny thing is that as a society we tend to regulate based on the threats we see. I think we have an opportunity today, we see this threat, and it’s not just a threat anymore, we’re already seeing climate change, right? But we have the chance, maybe the pandemic has shown us that we can achieve a lot if we pool all our knowledge collaboratively, we can do better. I am not sure if we will achieve this global carbon neutrality by 2050, but I am sure that we will move in the right direction and make things better.

At this point we certainly have more questions than answers as to what to do. A lot will depend on innovation and new technologies, but it’s happening. The market is being stimulated in that sense, it’s going to happen. I am confident that in five years we will see profound changes in this sense, including in the conscience of consumers who have the chance to move the needle, make the right decision and help everyone move in the right direction .

In your experience, how badly is the wine world currently being affected by climate change and how bad do you think it could get in the near future?

It depends on the country or region. As far as Chile is concerned, we are experiencing something different today than in Europe, for example. What they are seeing are worsening climate episodes. What we are seeing here in Chile are even worse droughts, especially in the center of the country. We have the driest desert in the world in the Atacama Desert, then we have Patagonia to the south. The central area of ​​Chile has a Mediterranean climate, a perfect climate to grow almost any type of crop. It’s a nice area to be a farmer. But we’ve faced less rain every fall and winter for at least 10 years, and the situation has gotten worse over the past three years. So, yes, ecosystems are changing, and it’s very similar to what’s happening in California.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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