The winemakers of Burgundy have been making natural wines before Natural Wine—with a capital N and W—was a thing. This week, the Chablis Winegrowers Union (FDAC) confirmed plans to double down on sustainability with a $6.25 million project to build a methanation system.
Right now, you might be wondering, “What is a methanation system?”
Good question. The FDAC describes the technology as a “breakthrough in the move to enhance sustainability in the wine making process.” In short, methanation is a process that will allow some 700 winemakers in the AOC to recycle their waste products into fertilizer, natural gas, and—makeup.
Specifically, the stems, seeds, and skins, called ‘pomace,’ contain COx which is converted into to methane CH4 and water through a process called ‘hydrogenation.’ For those unfamiliar with methane CH4, the compound is used to create synthetic natural gas. More recently, engineers have also begun employing the gas to store energy created by solar panels and windmills.
“We are proud to be one of the first wine regions to put in place a methanation process of this kind and on this scale as well. Sustainability is a key focus for Chablis and the rest of Bourgogne so our winemakers are always looking at new innovations on both small and large scale projects,” Louis Moreau, President of the BIVB Chablis told Harpers UK. “We believe the new system will be a success and with a younger generation of winemakers who have travelled the world for their studies and then come home to Chablis, we will work hand in hand with them to bring in new practices to protect the environment and our terroir.”
Growers will be able to bring their pomace to a facility in the south of Chablis. The process will begin with machinery sorting out the grape seeds. The seeds will be turned into antioxidant rich oil which will be used as an ingredient in skin care products.
The rest of the pomace will then be fermented in large, covered silos. Finally, this product will be fed into a mechanization machine that will catalyze a reaction and create synthetic natural gas.
Said gas will be piped directly into France’s natural gas infrastructure, Gaz Réseau Distribution France (GRDF). The remaining waste will be used as fertilizer.
The pricey project will be funded by the Chablis Winegrowers Union, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and local government subsidies.
The plant is scheduled to be fully operational in 2021.