This Italian winery makes sustainable wines you can buy online starting at $8 a bottle - here's how it's influencing innovation in an industry set on tradition
- Banfi, a winery led by one of the industry's few female CEOs, is the only winery to win an ISO award for sustainability.
- The family-run company invested ten years of research into finding the best, healthiest clone grapes for its particular region of Tuscany. To enrich the community and create a healthier industry, Banfi shares its research publicly.
- Banfi CEO Cristina Mariani-May spoke to Business Insider about wine, being a leader in the industry, and how the 100-year-old brand uses sustainability to protect itself against the challenges of climate change.
- You can order Banfi wine online on Wine.com or Drizly for delivery in as little as under an hour.
Though living a fully sustainable life grows ever more complex, there are a number of choices you can make to be, at very least, more sustainable . You can buy shoes made out of leaves, leggings from fishing nets, and T-shirts that help reforest the earth.
Less in-your-face is the option of sustainable wine - specifically Banfi, the first winery in the world to win an ISO award for sustainability.A 100-year-old, family-run company revolutionizing an ancient tradition as human as apple pie is American, innovation has been necessary for Banfi from the outset. Funded by capital made from legal - though conspicuously alcoholic - medicinal bitters in Prohibition-era America, Banfi was able to buy and develop Tuscan vineyards in the '70s and invest in decade-long research into the 15 best, healthiest clones out of 650 Sangiovese grapes. Then and now, those healthy clones help the winery combat environmental and agricultural challenges. In order to buoy Italian wine making as a whole, Banfi then made its findings and practices public - encouraging healthy worldwide competition and the success of its neighbors.
Cristina Mariani-May, the third Mariani to helm Castello Banfi and one of the industry's few female CEOs, told Business Insider that Banfi's open-source approach is a classic example of "the rising tide": "If our region produces better wine and continues to evolve as a top-producing region on the global playing field, ultimately we all provide people around the world with better wine... It's always been about making a difference for the region above anything else."
Banfi's sustainability efforts are visible in both the macro and the micro. In addition to the ISO award, Mariani-May has spoken on combating emissions at the Climate Change Leadership Conference in Porto to aid industry-wide improvement. More granularly, Castello Banfi in Tuscany regularly implements eco-friendly adjustments. "We're constantly reviewing everything we do and experimenting in order to be more efficient and responsible."
The company uses lightweight bottles (with the exception of its long-aging wines) to save 6,340 tons of raw materials for every one million bottles made. After a collaboration with the Department of Agronomy and Agro-Ecosystem Management of the University of Pisa, it instituted a new eco-friendly way of eliminating toxic runoff when cleaning machinery. It cut its water usage by 80% by implementing micro-irrigation, participates in low-input farming, and has one of the highest ratios of forest to cultivated land among European wine estates to reduce the greenhouse effect. The list goes on.
Today, the winery is particularly well loved for Brunellos and relatively affordable luxury, with bottles ranging from $8 to $200 (depending on the type and delivery location). It's accessible to both wine aficionados and curious 20-somethings.
The company's wines are available for delivery online from Wine.com or Drizly in classic but inventive varieties: a sparkling red wine called Rosa Rogale ($5 - $29.99) and a light, crisp alternative to Pinot Grigio with pineapple notes from Piedmont called the Principessa Gavi ($12.98 - $21.99) - the former a common recommendation and the latter a current favorite of Mariani-May.It's important to note that the wine industry - with its $1,500+ bottles of vintage Bordeauxs - isn't an industry that worships indiscriminately at the altar of innovation. Aside from strong subscription services making wine know-how accessible to millennials and startups dedicated to crowdfunding small wineries, it's still defined by enduring tradition. It even shares the estate jargon of couture: you may hear "wine house" used just as you'll hear "House of Chanel."
While direct-to-consumer retailers with a young, eco-friendly demographic may embrace sustainability to compete with peers or engage customers, wine's sustainable innovation is less about marketing and more about insurance. Winemaking is agricultural, and subtle shifts in temperamental variables like temperature, soil, precipitation, and wind, sun, or shade can make dramatic differences in your wine from year to year. It's partly why you may hear someone referring to the year of the bottle as an indication of its worth, and why certain vineyards are renown because of very specific features of a particular field's location. Erratic, extreme weather patterns À la climate change are the enemies of such a fickle, maddeningly precise art.
Banfi falls in the school of thought that companies - rather than individuals alone - have a social responsibility to uphold, and one that may not be immediately or independently lucrative. Unlike high-volume orders or brand loyalty that can accompany buzzy launches like Everlane's new carbon-neutral sneaker, innovation in wine is a subtler affair - and one that pays into a communal pot more than personal coffers.
But, like choosing to enjoy one extraordinary glass of wine instead of ten that taste like alcoholic grape La Croix, it's never really been about quantity. In life, as in well-functioning wineries, the whole grand endeavor is really more about the joie de vivre - and the simple joy of a craft well-done - than it ever was about greater margins.
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