, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 590-602
Date: 23 Oct 2012

Life cycle assessment of the supply chain of a Portuguese wine: from viticulture to distribution

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper performs a life cycle assessment study for a white wine produced in the northern part of Portugal, i.e. the white vinho verde. The purpose is to identify the environmental impacts occurring along the wine life cycle as well as the stages that mostly contribute to the environmental impact, as well as the associated causes. The stages considered include: (1) viticulture, (2) wine production (vinification to storage), (3) wine distribution and (4) bottles production.

Methods

The consumption of materials and energy, as well as the emissions to air, soil and water from the wine campaign of 2008/2009 were reported to the functional unit (0.75 l of white vinho verde). A Portuguese company that produces about 25 % of the current total production of white vinho verde supplied specific life cycle data for the stages of viticulture, wine production and distribution. SimaPro and the Ecoinvent database were used to perform the environmental assessment using CML 2001 impact methodology. A sensitivity analysis for a set of significant parameters was performed.

Results

Results show that for viticulture the contribution of each impact category is larger than 50 %. The production of bottles is the second contributor varying from about 4 % (to eutrophication) to 26 % (to acidification). Wine production and distribution are the subsequent contributors. The contribution of wine production varies between 0.6 % (to land competition) and about 13 % (from marine aquatic and sediment ecotoxicity 100a). The contribution of distribution is up to 14 % (to photochemical oxidation). Sensitivity analysis shows that significant changes are calculated for parameters as the nitrate leaching to groundwater, the emission of nitrous oxide from managed soil, and from runoff and leaching. Changes in these parameters are significant for only a few impact categories as eutrophication and global warming.

Conclusions

Viticulture is the stage with the largest relative contribution to the overall environmental impact and the bottle production is the subsequent stage. In order to improve the environmental performance of the supply chain for wine, it is necessary to optimise the dosage of fertilisers and phytosanitary products used during viticulture. The sensitivity analysis demonstrates that the most influential parameters relate with the emission of nitrogen compounds associated with the use of fertilisers.

Responsible editor: Birgit Grahl