Another Reason to Love Wines from the Alentejo in Portugal – Sustainability
I’ve had several occasions over the past few years to become more acquainted with wines from the Alentejo in Portugal.
Wines from this warm-weather region tend to be robust with lots of concentration and richness.
And, as if you needed another reason to appreciate wine from Alentejo you can also take comfort in the fact that many of the wines from this region are now sustainably produced.
The Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP)
This is all due to the creation of the Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP) that was formed as a voluntary initiative to help grape growers and wine producers become certified sustainable while improving the social, environmental and economic welfare of the region.
Members focus on reducing water and energy consumption and practicing integrated pest management to reduce disease pressure.
Despite its admittedly “WASP-y” name, the goals of the program are laudable and especially timely given climate change realities.
The Alentejo is located in southern Portugal and covers 30% of the country’s landmass.
The region, which is roughly the size of Massachusetts, takes its name from the Portuguese translation of “behind the Tagus River.”
Because of its warm continental climate, the Alentejo is well positioned for producing red wine which makes up 73% of production with white wine comprising 25% of production and rosé a tiny 2%.
The number of wine producers has increased dramatically in the last twenty-five years — from 45 producers in 1995 to 227 producers in 2020.
The First and Only Wine Region in Portugal to Have a Sustainability Program
The Alentejo is the first and only wine region in Portugal to have a sustainability program (i.e., WASP) in place for sustainable viticultural and cellar practices.
WASP incorporates 171 criteria for self-evaluation and accountability eventually leading up to third-party certification.
It helps producers learn the economic value of measuring and reducing consumption.
Within a short, six-year period of time WASP-member producers have come to make up 41% of the Alentejo’s planted area.
Resistance to participating in WASP’s free and voluntary program comes mainly due to the understandable time and investment costs of implementation.
Consumers and Retailers Demand Sustainability
João Barroso, WASP’s Sustainability Coordinator, recently described how one major Scandinavian grocery store chain increased the percentage of its inventory dedicated to sustainably-produced wines, and how WASP helps its members position themselves to meet this growing consumer and retail demand.
Thus, sustainability not only makes good environmental sense, it also makes practical business sense.
Alentejo Producers and Wines to Look For
There’s a good chance, your purchase will not only be good for your table and wallet, but also good for the environment as well.