No, it isn’t hide leather dyed to match the colour of wine. Wine leather is an actual material. Also known as grape leather, it’s made by Vegea from grape seeds, stalks, and the fibres of the grape skin.
How Do They Make Wine Leather?
Wine lovers, before you fear for your beloved grape, know that the materials used for leather production come from the grape residue that results from wine production. Hide leather, as you no doubt know, comes from animals. Though the hide leather industry is changing, the tanning process still uses a significant amount of water and energy. It also relies on multiple chemical processes to stabilise the hides so they’re more durable for tanning (another toxic process).
Synthetic leathers don’t result in animal deaths, but they do generate pollution through the use of synthetic polymers, plasticizers, and solvents. Vegea’s leather, however, is a by-product of the wine industry. So from the very start, the material is repurposing food waste into a viable, long-lasting product.
Seeds from the separation process create a bio-oil which is polymerized. The treatment chemicals, though proprietary, are said to be non-toxic and minimal water is necessary.
According to Vegea, there are 2.5kg of grape marc―or wine production waste―for every 10 litres of wine. And that 2.5kg of marc creates 1 square metre of leather. So the estimated 29 billion litres of wine produced worldwide creats enough marc to make 2.9 billion square metres of planet-friendly, animal-friendly leather.
Circularity & Moving Ahead
Vegea is planning for their leather to be returned to them at the end of their useful life to be recycled into fresh usable grape leather once again. Here are a couple of manufacturers using wine leather.
The wine colour isn’t a given―many other colours exist. At present, the material’s main use is in the fashion industry. However, its use for the seats in Bentley’s EXP 100 GT bodes well for Vegea’s future use as an upholstery material. Wine leather should be making its way into homes and offices within the next few years.
Other Plant-based Leathers
Fruitleather Rotterdam is another company experimenting with repurposing waste fruit. While fashion accessories are definitely on the radar, they also have some furniture options, including the Wassily Chair. Their current favourite fruit for leather making is mango.