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Wines of Alentejo Pioneering Sustainability Initiative (WASP) Debuts WASP 2.0 — Adapting to a Changing World

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Evora, Portugal, December 4, 2023 – Europe’s largest, most progressive regional wine sustainability initiative, Portugal’s Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP), announces the launch of WASP 2.0. Established 10 years ago, WASP has become a model for similar initiatives around the globe. Under WASP 2.0, new initiatives stemming from accumulated learnings over the past 10 years, include:

  • A first-ever partnership of its type with the World Wildlife Fund Portugal (WWF and known in Europe as the World Wide Fund for Nature)
  • A revamp of 171 demanding criteria to qualify for the WASP Certification Seal, with the goal of making the program more effective and inclusive
  • A heightened emphasis on adapting to rather than mitigating climate change, as well as emphasizing the circular economy. “Mitigating damage by using less water, for example, is no longer enough. You need to adapt, such as planting more heat-tolerant grape varieties,” underlines WASP coordinator João Barroso.

In its decade of existence, WASP has yielded tangible benefits for southern Portugal’s Alentejo region and its now 651 member wineries, representing 58% of the total vineyard area. In addition, 23 percent of member acreage is controlled by 20 members (soon to be 23) who may sport the WASP certification seal. Launched in August 2020, the third-party certified seal indicates a winery has complied with 86% or more of the 171 WASP criteria at the most advanced level.

  • One in three wine bottles from Alentejo is now certified sustainably produced.
  • A recent tender nearly tripled the price offered for WASP seal-certified wine.
  • In the drive toward lighter weight bottles, WASP members are ahead of the curve, having reduced median bottle weight from 780 grams in 2013 to 520 g today and aiming for 420 g.
  • In a rural region that has been losing population for lack of employment opportunities, WASP is, in a small way, starting to help with job creation. This includes a small but growing number of wineries hiring an in-house point person to coordinate and implement WASP initiatives; WASP itself has grown from a “team” of one to three.

At its founding, WASP partnered with the University of Evora to tap into an existing academic knowledge base. The additional partnership with the WWF gives WASP access to a highly respected NGO’s 60-year experience in nature conservation. In turn, by working directly with grape growers and wine producers, WWF learns to better balance the needs of nature and farmers.

WASP 2.0 has the same number of criteria (171) as WASP 1.0, but 74% are new, involving a drastic revamp of concrete goals in viticulture, vinification, and social responsibility for each member to aim for. The revised criteria also reflect WASP’s success in recruiting a more diverse membership, including co-ops and smallholders. Requiring an employee handbook, for example, makes sense for a larger company, but may be counterproductive for a small family operation.

WASP’s impact has been acknowledged by the 10 awards it has received, including:

  • Rural Ambassadors from Project Liaison (funded by the European Commission)
  • Green Awards 2020 Amorim Sustainability Award for an Association from The Drinks Business
  • The Deloitte Portugal Sustainability Initiative Award (investor relations and governance)

Alentejo Regional Winegrowing Commission (Comissão Vitivinícola Regional Alentejana/CVRA): Founded in 1989 as a private institution, dedicated to certifying, controlling, and protecting Alentejo’s wine industry and culture. CVRA is also responsible for promoting Alentejo wines domestically and in selected international markets. Funding comes from a certification process, including a seal placed on the back label of Alentejo bottles, attesting to the guarantee of origin and the quality standard of the wine.

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