0 comment

Another Reason to Love Wines from the Alentejo in Portugal – Sustainability

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP Portugal

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)

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP PortugalThis 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.

Alentejo Background

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP PortugalBut first, here’s more background on the Alentejo region which has been producing wine for 4,000 years.

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.

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP PortugalFor example, some producers have been pleasantly surprised to discover how implementing conservation practices have helped them save Olympic-pool volumes of water each month.

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

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP PortugalWASP is very aware of the increased consumer and retail demand for sustainably-produced goods, of which wine is no exception.

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

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program WASP PortugalSo, the next time you’re shopping for wine, check out the Portugal section and look for a wine from the Alentejo.

Major producers to look out for include Esporão, Herdade Dos Grous, Reguengos Garrafeira, and Cartuxa whose wines I’ve very much enjoyed.

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.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.