South Africa has Potential to Lead Global Sustainability in Wine


Solutions for and action on environmental sustainability are the only options left, as time is running out and there is no Plan B with which to tackle the tremendous pressure on the world’s resources. Speaking at the Cape Wine 2022 showcase in Cape Town, António Amorim, president of Portuguese cork company Amorim, the largest suppliers of cork stoppers to the global wine industry, said that in 28 years’ time – 2050 – the world population is set to reach 9.8 billion people. “There is simply no more time for making big plans on the quest to a sustainable planet,” he said. “There is only one solution left and that is for each one of us to take action.”

Amorim was one of the keynote speakers at the opening of this year’s Cape Wine which saw wine buyers, media representatives and members of the hospitality industry from around the world descend on the Cape Town Convention Centre for a three-day exposure to the South African world, with the event’s theme of Sustainability 360. According to Amorim, it is imperative that action towards a more sustainable future includes selective consumption that takes cognizance of the need to foster habits aimed at demanding and offering a lower carbon footprint from suppliers of products and services.

“Additionally, we must invest in a carbon sink so that Carbon Net Zero is achieved worldwide by 2050,” he said. “The wine industry is the only branded agricultural product in the world, its uniqueness lying in the underscoring of the uniqueness of each wine’s point of origin, as well as full traceability along the supply chain. It is here where wine producers have reached consensus, becoming increasingly aware of their role in mitigating carbon emissions, ensuring dignified livelihoods for wineland communities and their future generations.”

Amorim emphasized South Africa’s example for the world in terms of its sustainability credentials. “You have here the partnership between Cape wine farms and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a collaboration that is one of its kind in the world. This sees farmers committing to the practical conservation of thousands of hectares of the magnificent Cape Floral Kingdom and its biodiversity. This WWF Biodiversity Champions initiative, together with the industry’s Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) system, shows South African producers’ commitment to sustainability through which the country can lead and differentiate in the world of wine.”

Amorim said that the most important event on global wine industry sustainability, the Porto Protocol in 2019, illustrated four areas needing addressing due to the extent of their carbon emissions: Vineyard management (34% of carbon emissions), winery (15%), packaging (38%) and transport (13%).

In terms of packaging – the highest carbon emitter – the Porto Protocol presented innovative research on the carbon-capturing abilities of cork. “Each ton of cork harvested retains 73 tons of CO₂ – one cork-stopper, thus, captures nearly 400 grams of CO₂, off-setting the 450 grams’ emissions generated through the production of an average 750ml glass bottle,” he said. “Therefore, using cork instead of a screwcap can improve the carbon foot-print of a glass bottle by 30%.”

Amorim said that the company had committed to planting 1,5m cork oak trees over the next five years on 4 000ha of land owned by Amorim, greening Mediterranean regions that are on the brink of desertification. “Cork is not only a great closure allowing wine to evolve, but it adds a premium image to the product which, together with its negative carbon footprint, provides the bottle of wine with a better life-circle assessment,” he said.

“Wine producers from all over the world share certain non-negotiable values – expression of geographical identity, recognition of culture and provenance and sharing of exciting difference. To this we must add that the wine world of grape-growers, winemakers, distributors, retailers and consumers share the conviction that sustainability is one of the main priorities embedded in the supply chain.”

Amorim said he knows many individual wine companies and relevant players in the world of wine. “But I do not identify any country that is tackling this topic in a unified manner,” he said. “South Africa could truly lead and show leadership in a combined effort, putting your incredible wine industry ahead of the pack.”





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