Sustainability is important to the New Zealand wine sector, says Steve Green, chair of New Zealand Winegrowers. “We believe it helps to produce great wines, protects the environment and our people, and provides assurance to our consumers.”
The roots of grape-growing and winemaking in
New Zealand are deeply embedded in sustainability.
Pioneering Kiwi winegrowers were among the first to recognise that producing wines that ensured the protection of the environment and communities – and encouraged profitability – was essential.
Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand was launched in the mid-1990s. Twenty years later, the programme is a world leader in wine sustainability.
“In 2016, 98 per cent of New Zealand’s vineyard producing area was certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, and around 7 per cent operate under certified organic programmes. This is unmatched by any voluntary scheme around the world,” Green says. “Wine producers from north to south are committed to protecting the unique places that make our famous wines by minimising the use of chemicals, energy, water and packaging, and wherever possible reusing and recycling materials and waste. This widespread commitment is something we’re really proud of.”
MONITOR, MEASURE, REDUCE, REPEAT
“When it comes to sustainability, talk is not enough,” says Green. Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand members are independently audited. “They are measured on every aspect of growing, winemaking and packaging. In fact, anything which makes a difference for the betterment of us all. No matter how great our progress there is only one response: do better next year.”
And, if the achievements from the 2016 growing season are anything to go by, New Zealand has all the building blocks in place to be one of the most sustainable wine regions in the world.
WHAT DOES ‘SUSTAINABLE’ MEAN FOR NZ WINE?
To the almost 700 wineries
and 750 or so grape-growers
in New Zealand, sustainability means delivering excellent wine to consumers in a way that enables the natural environment, the businesses and the communities involved, to thrive.
Sustainability extends beyond the environment to social and economic issues. New Zealand Winegrowers has identified key areas of focus as biodiversity; soil, water and air; energy; pest and disease management; by-products; people; and business practices.
Reduce, reuse and recycle are watchwords in Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand vineyards
Many by-products are diverted from the waste stream and turned to beneficial use. All farm production generates waste, and wine is no different. But the bulk of the waste from vineyard and winery operations – vine prunings, grape stalks and marc (skins and seeds) – is valued by the New Zealand viticulturist for what it is: an asset.
A total 92,033m3 of by-product is diverted from landfill by vineyards and wineries. That’s enough to fill 36 Olympic swimming pools.
Our vineyards and wineries are using less electricity and becoming more efficient.
New Zealand is fortunate
to produce most of its electricity from renewable sources: hydro, wind and geothermal.
Even so, the rising cost of electricity coupled with the high energy demands of wine production has seen the industry focus on this as a major sustainability factor. As well as being of broad environmental benefit, energy-saving initiatives rolling out throughout New Zealand’s vineyards and wineries are reducing running costs: 99 per cent of wineries measure and monitor energy use.
It’s critically important to New Zealand’s vineyards for irrigation and frost protection. Although New Zealand has more than 50 major rivers, 770 lakes and abundant rainfall, it is vital that wine businesses optimise water use and protect the purity of waterways. A total 98 per cent of vineyards use monitoring techniques to optimise water applications; 99 per cent of wineries optimise water conservation and limit how much goes back into the waste system.
Pest and disease management
Since 2001, Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand members have reduced insecticide applications on vineyards by more than 50 per cent.
Looking to the future, the sector is researching a range of vineyard pests and diseases, and future control strategies are being developed to ensure that agrichemical use continues to decline. Today, 99 per cent of vineyards use non-chemical controls.
Enhancing biodiversity in the vineyard offers clear economic advantages such as biological control of pests, diseases and weeds, and improving soil quality – resulting in better crops without the ongoing expense of manual methods.
Some 2500 hectares have been set aside for biodiversity protection, restoration or enhancement by vineyards and wineries – that’s 2976 rugby pitches.
It starts and ends with the land. Well cared for soil makes great grapes … and a thriving, healthy environment.
Maintaining great soil isn’t just about making great grapes, it’s also about protecting the wellbeing of the whole environment. New Zealand viticulturists lead the way in employing practices that preserve and enhance the soil in their vineyards.
More than 83 per cent of vineyards retain permanent inter-row vegetation throughout the year.
This data is from New Zealand Winegrowers Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand members in October 2016. nzwine.com/sustainability