Standing on a plastic-infested beach in Bali this spring, Mickael Alborghetti was shocked into a decision: He would quit his job in the Cahors wine business and found France’s first carbon neutral, eco-wine wholesaler. And that is exactly what he did.
Speaking from his office near Bordeaux’s historic négociant district, the Chartrons, Alborghetti told Meininger’s his new company will have 10 earth-friendly wines ready for sale by year end. “Each one will be from a major AOC or IGP, so Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, Languedoc and so on.”
The wines he selects will already, to some extent, be eco-friendly, carrying official certifications ranging from High Environmental Value (HVE), to Terra Vitis, ISO 14001, Demeter or organic. But many certifications do not go far enough, he argues. To that end, Alborghetti, an agri-food engineer, will work directly with each producer to improve carbon footprints all the way along the supply chain. Much of the focus will be on packaging and transport. “And we will offset the remaining carbon footprint by partnering with offset projects in India and Africa,” he said.
As well as the plastic on the beach, Alborghetti said he was already sceptical about organic wines with plastic corks, and other unsustainable packaging and labelling.
That thinking resulted in a second part to his business: co-branded wines that will carry EthicDrinks logos. This will take a little longer, he explained, because it means working with producers to get every piece of the wine puzzle – bottling, labelling, glue, corks, capsules, packaging, transport – as sustainable and carbon neutral as possible. And while the wines might not be 100% carbon neutral by themselves, their offset needs will be lower. “We should have some of those partnerships ready for sale by January 2020,” Alborghetti said.
Wholesale prices for the wines will range from €2.50 to €15.00 ex-cellar.
To help with the endless choices and compromises that are part of running an eco-friendly business, Alborghetti is working with a major international NGO. “So they are telling us, yes, you can do this. No, not this.” Unwilling to reveal their name yet, he said there will be further announcements when the partnership is formalised.
In terms of materials, EthicDrinks, will use only recycled or recyclable materials. “We bring you the wine, not the carbon,” his website says. The company will also donate a portion of profits to carbon-positive projects.
“We want to be the cleanest wine négociant in the business. We’re setting the benchmarks. No one has done this before,” said Alborghetti. Where possible, the wines will be vegan in terms of avoiding animal products in the wine making, like egg-white for collage.
Originally from Toulouse, Alborghetti said Bordeaux, where he is now located, remains for him, the wine capital, with suppliers and customers visiting regularly. It’s the right place for such an initiative, not least because Bordeaux’s Wine Council, or CIVB, has been at the forefront of national efforts to control the sector’s carbon footprint. The council’s latest figures show that 62% of vineyards now hold an environmentally positive certification.