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‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’ – Greta Thunberg

The house is on fire. Most of the occupants have been woken up by the smoke. But deep down in the cellar, the wine trade is only just beginning to stir. 

Not so long ago, words like ‘sustainable’, ‘natural’ and ‘green’ were marketing jargon, but now they have real weight and meaning in a world changing with the same rapidity as the industrial revolution. Consumers are voting with their wallets and companies’ environmental policies are increasingly afforded the same level of scrutiny as their yearly results. 

In my local Sainsburys superstore in south west London, a casual glance into the yummy mummies’ trollies is revealing. Free range chicken; packaging-lite vegetables; environmentally friendly cleaning products; wine made via thermovinification, produced from grapes grown in heavily irrigated, ecological deserts. 

It’s a paradox which can only be righted with a combination of consumer education and corporate action. 

Ruth Spivey, founder of Wine Car Boot, draws parallels between the wine and fashion industries. At the consumer sharp end, newness is prized whether it’s a new seasonal wardrobe or the new vintage. We have reports of luxury fashion brands sending excess product to landfill rather than depreciating the perceived value of their brand by discounting prices – it causes use to question what sort of similar wastage must be occurring behind the scenes of wine brand bemouths.

She suggests that UK winemakers can play an important role in connecting consumers to idea of wine as an artisanal, agricultural product: “historically we’re not a wine producing country, so I think there’s a lack of connection to where it comes from. There’s wine that you’ve brought for £5 and you use it to get drunk or feel better. [Imagine if] we had a sort of inexpensive English ‘house wine’ equivalent” designed to appeal to people who are very focussed on where their food is coming from. If people understood more about how grapes are grown and the wine is made, they would be encouraged to seek out wines which are made using environmentally conscientious methods. Read the full interview with Ruth here

At Swirl, we’re increasingly interested in producers and regions which prioritise sustainability. Georgia, for example, is a great example of a country which promotes biodiversity with its expansive range of indigenous grapes still in popular production. 

But we also think that there are many small ways in which non-production focussed areas of the trade can aim for sustainability. In that vein, we’re considering ways in which we can become a more environmentally sustainable company, starting with these four key challenges which we’d love to hear your thoughts how we can tackle:
  • Wastage at tastings – ranging from glasses being treated as disposable, to production of tasting booklets
  • Non-recyclable packaging of samples
  • Wasted samples
  • Carbon footprint of press trips


  • It was wonderful to meet Ruth Spivey last month and quiz her about everything from supermarket plonk, to fast fashion, sustainability and her second career in wine. Read the interview here.
  • Exciting new developments in English wine production – Sam Linter, winemaker at Boleny Estate shared pictures of Pinot Noir being machine harvested. 
  • An interesting mini-thread about naming non-alcoholic drinks (beer, specifically). An opportunity for fun, or the responsibility of manufactures to make non-alcoholic options no big deal?
  • Congratulations to Helen McGinn aka Knackered Mother who is the latest drinks expert to join Saturday Kitchen.
  • We don’t love to use this part of our newsletter to blow our own horn, but our Twitter feed is currently aglow with insightful quotes from Sarah Abbott MW post her Soave masterclass. A must-read! 
  • We popped down to the M&S concept store in Clapham Junction and have shared our thoughts over on the blog. Spoiler: it’s left us questioning whether supermarket ‘concept’ stores are more fad than forward-thinking.
  • Thursday past it was #WorldMentalHealthDay and our content manager, Celia, has shared some personal reflections on mental health and alcohol.

Dates For Your Diary

New Wave Japanese Wine Masterclass with Sarah Abbott MW

Prosecco Superiore and Afternoon Dim Sum Tasting Experience

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Swirl Wine Group, 1st Floor, Charles House, 148-149 Great Charles Street, Birmingham, B3 3HT, United Kingdom

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