The International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) is an anticipated annual gathering. It draws a global set of producers of Pinot Noir to McMinnville, Oregon each summer.
International Winemaking Perspectives
The 37th annual event, held in July 2023, featured producers from Oregon, California, Austria, South Africa, Argentina, France, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, and Canada. An IPNC ticket also included educational seminars and enlightening panel discussions, presented by industry experts, winemakers, and wine journalists.
This year’s focus was on climate change, with the Grand Seminar, Planet Pinot — Vintage 2025, focused on the future of making Pinot Noir. Panelist and Argentine winemaker Dr. Laura Catena reminded the gathering that this is called the “heartbreak grape” because it is sensitive to its conditions. Her brand, Domaine Nico, cultivates single-vineyard Pinot Noir from extremely high elevations in the Uco Valley.
Glass Bottles and Carbon Footprint
One of the main topics, as expected, was the carbon footprint of the wine industry. Perhaps the most easily approached and understandable fixture in this equation is the glass wine bottle. It’s something that both winemakers and consumers rely on, and it’s one area that we can immediately make an impact.
The carbon footprint of wine containers is based on multiple factors, including farming methods, material choice, bottle weight, transportation, and recycling rates. “Glass bottle is the elephant in the room” when the industry discusses true sustainability, according to panelist and Napa Valley winemaker Diana Snowden Seysses. According to a 2012 report from compliance and sustainbility firm iPoint, around 40% of the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine comes from the glass bottle.
Bottle weight is a crucial consideration, and it’s one area that consumers can make a choice. Heavier bottles require more energy for production and transportation, leading to higher carbon emissions. A standard “heavy” bottle could weigh around 900 grams, while the lightest glass wine bottles on the market now can dip down below 400 grams.
Examples of Wineries Reducing Bottle Weight
Some wineries, such as Broadley Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, have already committed to lighter bottles. Proprietors Morgan and Jessica Broadley say that “change can’t happen overnight” when it comes to with wine industry’s impact on the climate. But as a small producer, lighter bottles are something that they’ve been able to implement.
Nigel Greening, proprietor of Felton Road biodynamic winery in Central Otago, New Zealand produces several bottlings of Pinot Noir. He confirms that “glass is the biggest single cause of carbon in the wine industry today.” While he acknowledges that glass essential for aging, the bottle doesn’t necessarily have to be thick or heavy. Felton Road is now using bottles that are about half the weight they once were. “Wine doesn’t mind being in a thin glass bottle,” says Greening.
Thibault Gagey, director of operations for Maison Louis Jadot in Bourgogne, France and Résonance Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, says that his French winery has reduced the weight of bottles as well. Matt Wengel, winemaker at Lemelson Vineyards indicates that his winery is using a lighter-weight bottle that taps in at about 600 grams. To put this in perspective, earlier this year Champagne Telmont and French glassmaker Verallia announced that they’d released the world’s lightest Champagne bottle. At 800 grams, the house reports that the bottle generates 4% less CO2 than a typical bottle and yet it can withstand the gas pressure of Champagne production.
Reusing or Recycling Wine Bottles
Glass is recyclable, and using recycled glass for new bottles requires less energy compared constructing it with fresh materials. Greening encourages wine consumers to take part in the practice. He says that glass furnaces and bottle producers around the world are going out of business due to competition in China, which is located thousands of miles from most wine-producing regions. “How can you help?” asks Greening. “Recycle bottles so there won’t be container ships of empty glass bottles going around the world!”
There’s been talk of the return and reuse of glass wine bottles, similar to what’s happening with glass containers for milk, water, or soda. This is already happening in Austria’s Stiermark region where hundreds of wineries collaborated on a return system. There is also evidence of this happening in Provence, in Southern France.
Return and reuse gets tricky for wineries making products that cellar for many years, taking the bottle out of circulation for what can amount to a decade or more. This process would be more functional for product that are being consumed quickly, but it would require a ton of behavioral change for consumers and wineries. To become a reality in most parts of the world, the wine industry would expect a long planning horizon for any large-scale functionality. Greening says it’s more practical to find a specific market and kick-start return and reuse on a local basis.
Some produers explore alternative packaging like bag-in-box , cans, or Tetra Pak, which have lower carbon footprints than traditional glass bottles. However, these formats aren’t suitable for wine that is meant to be cellared. And in some cases, there’s still resistence from consumers who expect quality wine to come in a bottle. As Willi Bründlmayer, head of the eponymous estate in Austria’s Kamptal region told the seminar audience, “glass is the most noble material” for aging wine, but perhaps we don’t need as much of it.