Smith Haut Lafitte is producing baking soda

Thursday, 6. July 2017 - 11:45

Baking soda/Wiki Commons

Beloved of bakers, eco-cleaners and environmental warriors, bicarbonate of soda’s range of planet-friendly applications includes replacing toothpastes, household cleaners, facial scrubs and the plastic bottles they come in. Now, in a doubly environmentally friendly move, one of Bordeaux’s finest producers has notched up a first in France by producing its own bicarb, as part of a CO2 emissions reduction project.

The CO2 capture system has been installed in the ‘stealth cellar’ of Smith Haut Lafitte’s second wines (Les Hauts de Smith and Le Petit Haut Lafitte). Built underground (hence the stealth) in 2013, the cellar is an eco-friendly construction, with, for example, the naturally low temperatures inside reducing the need for electric cooling methods and shrinking the building’s carbon footprint.  

Current bicarbonate of soda production, via capture devices placed on each vat, is about eight tons annually. That is due to rise to about 20 tons in a few years. There are no plans to add the devices to the main winery, simply because it would be hard to retrofit them. The capture equipment was supplied by a small French company, Alcion Environnement, run by Jean-Philippe Ricard. The total costs for the design, development and installation of the prototype devices, said Ricard, was about €100,000.00 ($113,632.00). Ricard may be catching on to something of a boom here. He is also working on carbon capture possibilities with Spain’s Bodegas Torres, as part of Miguel Torres’s (senior) extensive efforts to make his winery climate friendly – including investing 11% of profits in eco-projects, and, eating less meat and more lentils.

Currently, some of the Smith Haut Lafitte’s bicarb is used in the château’s hotel, Les Sources de Caudalie, while the bulk is sold to chemists around France. In terms of making a profit the estate’s Technical Director, Fabien Teitgen, estimates it will take about 12 to 15 years, when production and sales goals are fully realized.

Although not a true long-term ‘carbon capture’ project (because in some cases the CO2 is released again as the bicarb is used), Teitgen said the winery is nonetheless replacing other forms of production, and, reuses what would normally be wasted. The expectation is that other Bordeaux château will install similar devices, partly because Bordeaux’s wine council, the CIVB or Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, is showcasing the initiative as good example of how to lower CO2 emissions.

Sophie Kevany