Alliance Wine has set out its stall with sustainability and diversity at the core of its business. Nowhere was this more evident than at its 2023 portfolio tasting where it was trialing an ingenious ‘anti-waste’ policy, which is one of the pillars of its sustainability strategy. Alliance is also making its own wine range, Terres Fidèles, in partnership with winemakers in the South of France which further enables it to meet its goal of responsible production and consumption. Robert Mason talked to sustainability manager Marta Juega Rivera, and took a tour of the new wines.
“Alliance Wine continues to innovate and drive sustainability and quality in all that they do. The future is looking bright, with a definite verdant hue,” writes Mason.
Now it had to be a coincidence, surely just a coincidence, one of those things, you know; but when Phonica Records in Soho greeted me with the first bars of Basket Case, I did grin: The 2023 Alliance Wine portfolio tasting would indeed be a Green Day.
The buzz and the hubbub as I descended the stairs turned up the dial and it was clear that the ‘In Our Nature’ focused tasting in September 2022 was just the warm-up act. New wines, producers, buyers and a greater focus on diversity and sustainability across the business were all evident. None more so than the pioneering “anti-waste” policy, the first trial of its kind for UK tasting room floors.
“We have put in place anti-waste policies in [all] our facilities with a special focus on input and output waste streams, so we are doing the same at our wine events,” says says sustainability manager, Marta Juega Rivera.
“Training and pre-event communication” was crucial for the strategy, as was water use and disposal, notes Rivera: “Our anti-waste policy focuses on minimising waste by utilising the UKs waste hierarchy.”
Such as ensuring waste water from ice used at the event finds its way to the correct treatment facility by the national water board networks and assuring all glass, cardboard etc. is recycled appropriately.
Together with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Rivera and Alliance trialled the minimal waste procedures at the portfolio tasting, a bold statement of intent to meet their goal of “responsible production and consumption” in line with international frameworks.
Of course, this is work in progress, not a perfect science. Rivera elegantly squares the circle: “We use the term ‘anti-waste policy’ rather than ‘zero-waste’ because we acknowledge our operations are not yet completely zero waste […] There were a few areas we found challenging: wine waste accounted for an organic source of waste, so it was extremely important to pay special attention to standard wine serving, usage of slow-pourers, and finding alternatives to avoid disposal.”
It was evident that this communication was made between Alliance employees, producers and attendees. It will be interesting to see the results, which may lead to greater responsibility within the industry.
Respecting the environment is second nature
On hand to offer some pointers and recommendations amongst the hundreds of wines to sample were new buyers Beans Boughton MW and Fionnuala Synott, responsible for Italy/Eastern Europe and France respectively.
Synott’s focus for the day was the nuances of producers from Champagne through to Corsica, regions where Synott believes the “environment is second nature.”
“The winemakers focus on wine, we internally encourage and assess how to best make wine by making sure everything is in place before sale: it is a partnership,” explains Synott.
One such partnership is Alliance’s own-made Terres Fidèles wines of the South of France. Boutique wines with a real sense of place, crafted by Remy Moens and CEO of Alliance Wine, Fergal Tynan MW and nestled within the dramatic hills above the Vallée d’Agly in the Roussillon.
The staple quality wines offering entry-level value from Felicette, Mont Rocher and Montsablé have been bolstered by editions across the board. Namely Mont Rocher Cabernet Franc (available in the Spring) made from old vines situated in the Limoux area. The wine is classic Cab Franc, with a dusty savoury profile supported by ripe and juicy fruit, good tannic grip and would make an excellent by-the-glass option for summer menus.
In addition, the Camí del Drac series from the Côtes Catalanes area includes a dynamic sense of innovation. It is clear to see from tank samples of each of the Grenache Blanc/Roussanne, Carignan Blanc and the Carignan Noir wines that all three will thrill consumers with their vivacity, fun and complementary complexity.
The ‘Soleilla’ Maury Sec Rouge is a cuvée of 80% Grenache with 20% Carignan: a full, complex and powerful wine which is nothing less than Mediterranean in style, fittingly versatile too. Going hand-in-hand with the Maury is the Côtes du Roussillon Villages Organic red, comprised of the same varietals and showing the refined complexity of a serious wine.
Although most of the wines in the Terres Fidèles range are not organic, they do fit within sustainable viticultural guidelines. As Synott explains: “Producers are converting to organic, some are questioning if this framework is fit for purpose. Usually there is a reason if not certified, such as use of copper and in some cases needing to spray vines … it is too prescriptive“.
“Regenerative Agriculture is finally gaining momentum. Carbon insetting* is a concept the wine industry will analyse further,” hints Rivera as one possible alternative to organics, as part of an industry-wide evolution.
Italy the main focus
From the remaining 350 wines on show I was relieved that Beans Boughton was able to energetically and enthusiastically navigate me through diverse wines from Piedmont to Marlborough.
Boughton highlighted a number of organic wines in the range, saying: “the best wines tend to be organic terrior-driven, switched-on producers respecting the environment.”
Such as the wines of Il Borghetto, declassified Tuscan IGP wines. Thrown out of the Consorsio for using screw caps and wanting to make wines his way. The ‘Monty’, a “white” Sangiovese looking more like a rosé, yet tasting “more like a Burgundy,” exclaims Boughton, definitely defies convention with its intensity and complexity. Coupled by the leathery, almost Nebbiolo-like Sangiovese/Canaiolo red, these wines are well worth seeking out.
Italy was the main focus of Boughton’s guided tour, and rightly so, with excellent wines on show from Casina Adelaide in Barolo to the Produttori del Gavi, San Polino of Brunello di Montalcino or the elegant expressions of Pecorino from Feudo Antico in Abruzzo.
Finally Boughton tied the logic of the Alliance vision together, describing the culture of this importer-producer: “Buyers, sellers, logistics all work to a whole set of criteria: showing producers each step so they can make good choices and fine wine. The philosophy is about people and the awareness of importance and sustainability – in all channels,” he says.
Alliance continues to innovate and drive sustainability and quality in all that they do. The future is looking bright, with a definite verdant hue.
*definition: “Insetting refers to the financing of climate protection projects along a company’s own value chain that demonstrably reduce or sequester emissions and thereby achieve a positive impact on communities, landscapes and ecosystems associated with the value chain”.
Alliance Wine is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To discover more about them click here.