The impact of climate change highlights the need for the wine and spirits industry to evolve, says industry leader Moët Hennessy. It has announced a €20 million research and sustainable development center focused on future-proofing the brand against global warming.
The new Robert-Jean de Vogüé Research Center in Mont Aigu, France, is closely aligned with Moët Hennessy’s recently launched Living Soils, Living Together program, the company says. “[O]ur new state-of-the-art research infrastructure will support all Moët Hennessy Houses as they continue to transform their businesses through sustainability,” Philippe Schaus, CEO of Moët Hennessy, said in a statement. “Named in honor of Robert-Jean de Vogüé, one of the Group’s historic leaders who worked tirelessly for the common good in Champagne and beyond, the Research Center will be a hub for sharing knowledge both between the Houses and with public sector researchers and will also embrace collaboration with other external structures.”
The new Center will focus on four key areas of research including a focus on microbiology and biotechnology; efforts to protect against climate change by studying plant physiology and the challenges presented by warming temperatures; improved production efforts and process engineering to increase optimal winemaking and recyclability across the supply chain; and efforts to continue to improve on quality and excellence through sensory analysis and formulation.
The center itself is aimed at inspiring connection to the planet. “The building was created with a clear understanding of its connections to the outside world,” the company says. The 4,000 m2 building, designed by architect Giovanni Pace, is embedded into an embankment to promote natural insulation. Building materials were selected for thermal performance and energy consumption.
Part of LVMH, which also includes Dior, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, and Sephora, Moët Hennessy has been a leader in environmental and social programs, including last year’s launch of Living Soils Living Together. That program brought an end to herbicide use on all of the brand’s Champagne, France, vineyards last year. It’s also working to establish the Moët Hennessy “University of Living Soils”—a platform for information sharing about sustainable agriculture.
Moët Hennessy’s sustainability commitments spread across seven key areas: agriculture, energy, waste, water and effluents, design, procurement, and supply chain. At present, 25 percent of Moët Hennessy vineyards are certified in sustainable agriculture and it’s working with its farmers to help them become certified in these practices.
“In recent years, our planet has been experiencing change on a global scale,” wine journalist Tadayuki Yanagi wrote in a guest post for the brand. “This includes everything from massive natural disasters like typhoons and hurricanes, to droughts that result in wildfires. And we cannot ignore the damage such disasters bring to the wine and spirits industry. Wildfires have burned vineyard fields in California and Australia, while the smoke they produce negatively affects the scent of the wine.
“Global temperatures have been on the rise since the start of the 21st century, causing the grape harvesting season in many regions to come earlier each year. This means that grape varieties suited to the soil of a certain region may not grow there so easily 100 years from now.
“The main cause of these environmental changes is thought to be an increase in greenhouse gases—the result of destructive decisions made by humankind,” he wrote.
The Robert-Jean de Vogüé Center is named after the former Moët Hennessy president. A progressive leader, he worked with employees in the 1930s to develop a precursor to France’s social status via a “contrat collectif” (collective agreement). In the 1940s, he helped to create CIVC Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, which protects the wine-producing region—a model simulated by other wine and food regions across France.
Sustainability in the wine industry
Organic and regenerative agriculture in the wine industry is gaining momentum. The organic wine market was valued at more than $7 billion in 2021, and projected to reach $16 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of ten percent between 2020 and 2027.
There’s evidence that organic and sustainable wine may test better, too. A study published earlier this year by UCLA, found that certified organic wines scored an average of 6.2 percent higher in taste than non-organic wines. Those certified as biodynamic scored even higher, averaging 11.8 percent better than conventional wines.
The study was a follow-up to similar research conducted by Magali Delmas, an environmental economist at UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Olivier Gergaud an economist at the Kedge Business School in Bordeaux, France.
Organic and biodynamic wines showed much higher quality,” Delmas said. “It’s another example of sustainable goods providing additional benefits to consumers.”
Their 2016 research found similar results: eco-labeled certified organic California wines ranked 4.1 percent higher than unlabeled wines.