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Lineage Wine Imports: Does Importing Sustainably Produced Goods Negate Their Green Factor?

| Wednesday September 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

wine-glassesMost 3p readers would agree that sustainably produced items are preferable to the alternative. And most business people (I imagine) would agree that it’s better to sell more of a product than less of it. So the question that follows is something of a doozie: does importing a sustainably crafted wine negate its green cred? I asked this question when a company called Lineage Imports was brought to my attention. According to its website, Lineage Imports seeks to provide high quality, sustainably produced wine while funding solutions for pressing social issues (for example, the economic development, natural resource conservation, and cultural preservation of rural communities in Mexico, Honduras, and several other countries). Although these goals are indeed environmentally and socially conscious, and the company is small and family-run, the nit-pick in me wonders nonetheless: why import?

Lineage Imports, which is based in California, partners with several hand-picked wineries in New Zealand, all of which (the website says) operate relatively sustainably (i.e. they use minimal-impact fertilizing, heating and cooling, insulating, watering, and harvesting techniques while maintaining or seeking CarbonZero certification). The symbiosis is simple: Lineage Imports sells the wine (at low prices, it advertizes), and the wineries donate a portion of the profit to Lineage Import’s causes.

These partnerships sound great, Lineage Imports’ goals sound great, and the benefits to the developing communities it supports may be substantial. But the question remains: how does importing impact the equation? What about carbon footprints and supporting one’s local economy?

I came across entries by a couple of bloggers considering similar matters: the import of Chinese soybeans and waste wood for biomass, respectively. Their opinions were, for me, further food for thought, and perhaps directly relevant to this discussion about imported eco-conscious wine.

The first, a sustainablebusiness.com blogger apparently concurred with Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, who reportedly said “importing Chinese soybeans or contributing to the loss of rain forests by shipping in commodities from Brazil just flat-out contradicts the working definition of organic agriculture.”

The second, a blogger for suitablydespairing.blogspot.com, reflected: “Is importing waste wood and timber sustainable? I have to admit that despite the environmental costs of shipping the stuff from other countries (and I would imagine they won’t have to look outside of Europe for it), I’d rather see them importing wood chips than importing coal.”

What are your thoughts on the matter?


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  • Michael Donohue

    All true, close to home is greenest. But what if you need more diversity and quality in your [tasting] life? Show me a decent California rhone look-alike vs CDR @ $10 – very few and far between. Show me a Chard like Macon or Maule @ $10. I live in SF and work in the trade and let me assure you the vast majority of sommeliers and buyers prefer imports of almost everything – maybe only always ZIN – despite the huge ‘industrial pressure’ to favor CA!
    So the green argument only goes so far:
    see Azimov in the Times today IRT Riesling.
    Sure CA competes (ie $50&up Anderson Valley Pinots) but at a price! All economic decisions (green or otherwise) are based on some PriceQualityRatio and @ $20 you’d better be in the 90s these days

  • http://www.winemonger.com Emily

    We import wine- some of it sustainably farmed (a very fast and loose term), and some of it certified biodynamic. We looked into erasing the carbon footprint of having the containers brought over on a ship… but in the end, shouldn’t we be planting trees anyway?
    And when we talk about supporting local growers, what about the local grower in that tiny town way over there who wouldn’t have enough buyers for their wine (or beans, or rice, or produce, or whatever) if somebody didn’t step in and export it?

  • http://www.greenfrogoutdoorfurniture.com Jerry

    Imported wine from Mexico? Is it any good? Seems pretty odd to me, I have never heard of Mexican wine, Tequila yes but wine? Your description of what they do that is “green” sounds a bit sketchy also. The whole thing kinda sounds a bit like “greenwashing” to me, sorry.

  • http://www.NewZealandFoodWines.com Ron McFarland

    I agree this is not so easy to balance. My sense is we all need each other and need to find the way to minimize our impact.

    I wrote about this last summer – you might find it interesting.

    http://newzealandfoodandwinetv.wordpress.com/2008/08/14/moat-building/