Six Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

November 2015
by Andrew Meggitt

Winemaking inherently depends on the land and the environment, so it makes sense that we as an industry would want to give back to the planet. Plus, the benefits of sustainable wine production aren’t just for the environment: Consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainably produced wine, and saving resources can also help to keep cash in your coffers.

With the right planning, sustainable practices can be a great boon to winemakers, consumers and Mother Earth. Here’s how to reduce, reuse and recycle at your winemaking operation—from setting water consumption key performance indicators to finding your inner artist.

1. Give solid waste a new life

The best part about winemaking waste is that most of it can go right back into the soil. Left lying around, it’s unsightly, smelly and useless, so it’s a no-brainer to reuse, compost or sell your solid waste. We use solid waste for compost, but it can also be used to make products including grapeseed oil and fine liquor.

2. Embrace DIY solutions
At St. James Winery, we have a nitrogen generator, which is pretty common for larger wineries. We use compressed air and smart drives to ensure we’re only using as much power as we need (instead of constantly running the machine like a traditional compressor) during the bottling and sparging processes. The generator paid for itself in two years and saves us around two to three hours per week. It also eliminates the need to get nitrogen delivered or use additional gas bottles.

3. Be fastidious about inventory
All aspects of your inventory, from glass to yeast, should be carefully monitored for unnecessary waste. Adding too many yeast or nitrogen compounds, for instance, is a wasteful practice I see quite frequently. Water consumption in particular can get out of control. It should be constantly checked against previously established key performance indicators to avoid wasteful leaks and overuse. At St. James, we do inventory every four weeks (in other words, 13 times per year). I do this both to control costs and manage waste.

4. Get crafty
Shrink-wrap, palettes, waste metal, aluminum cans, glass and wine barrels can be recycled, used as props in your stores or turned into recycling bins. I’ve seen people make tables out of wine barrels, vases out of old bottles and shelving from old palettes. Offer discarded barrels and palettes to employees and their friends, and you’ll gain an instantly loyal fan base of Pinterest users and crafters.

5. Cut costs when you can
Small investments now can help cut costs in the future. For instance, insulated tanks will save money and energy, and sanitizing them with nonpotable ozonated water (rather than fresh water) also reduces costs. I even know a couple of winemakers who will use one juice to start another one. Be creative in finding ways to cut your operating costs.

6. Get digital help
Energy management software can offer huge savings. Ours paid for itself in 27 months and saves us around $3,000 each year. We bought an off-the-shelf version and then customized it for our operation by layering over it with power usage. There are plenty of ways to improve the energy efficiency of your winery, from the crush pad to the final packaging.


The biggest challenge to making your winery or vineyard more sustainable is taking the time to do it. When we revamped our 45-year-old winery, we had to look at our infrastructure and see what changes would have the biggest payback. It was challenging to understand and interpret our energy system data and do our own installation, but the savings in money, time and energy have been invaluable.

So sit down, have a sip of wine, and take the plunge. Your business, the environment and your customers will thank you for it.

Andrew Meggitt joined the St. James Winery team in St. James, Mo., in 2002 and has been enjoying life in the wine business for more than 20 years. A three-year-long travel adventure around the world following university influenced not only his outlook on life but also his perception of winemaking styles and methodology. Meggitt creatively stretches the boundaries of traditional winemaking while integrating both Old World and New World techniques he learned while working in New Zealand and France.

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