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Cover Image:© Voyager Estate Margaret River
Sustainability, biodiversity, biodynamic are approaches to growing vineyards increasingly used in the wine sector. The future of wine starts here.
Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is the Australian national program for winegrowers and winemakers to improve sustainability in the vineyard and in the cellar through the environmental, social and economic aspects of their activities.
The program takes a holistic approach to managing, supporting and promoting sustainability, fostering important relationships between growers, wineries and their regions.
Let’s find out more from the words of Mardi Longbottom, technical lead of the Association.
Your Association was born in 2019, with a certainly ambitious program that cares about the present and the future of the planet and of a complex sector, such as wine. What goals have been achieved and what do you expect to achieve in the future?
Sustainable Winegrowing Australia launched in July 2019 as the national program for Australia. As a nation we have a long history of sustainable grape and wine practices that started as far back as the 1990s. It was agreed in early 2019 to combine two programs with existing strong metrics and continuous improvement components to form Sustainable Winegrowing Australia. The program has evolved to ensure it addresses the triple bottom line and continues to build its social and economic measures. It means that members aren’t just measuring and reporting on what’s going on in the winery or vineyard, but also what’s happening in their business from an economic and people perspective, and how they meaningfully contribute to the communities around them. The program is voluntary and encourages continuous improvement in a number of focus areas such as: land and soil, water, waste, biodiversity, energy, and people and business. Members can choose to become certified to the national viticulture and/or winery standards, through an independent third-party audit. In late 2020, we launched a registered trust mark so that members who become certified are eligible to use it on their wine labels or marketing materials. Just like our members, the program is on a journey of continuous improvement with regular reviews of the metrics and workbook. We’re working to ensure that the Australian wine industry is future-proofed to meet the quickly evolving international regulatory standards and retailer demands, driven particularly from Europe and the UK. We have an ambitious goal for Australia’s sustainability credentials to be recognised as world leading.
Can you explain to the non-professional reader but potential consumers the benefits of sustainable production?
The main benefit of sustainable production is that we leave the land in a better state than when we arrived and ensure that our people and businesses are protected for future generations. The Australian wine industry has a target of net-zero waste and emissions by 2050 and we are working together to reach those targets much sooner, with roadmaps and specific plans underway. We know that many consumers are now eco-conscious, therefore sustainability or how a brand considers the environment is increasingly becoming a part of their purchasing decisions. When buying wine that displays the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia trust mark, consumers can have peace of mind that they are supporting the growers and makers who are committed to producing wine that is reducing environmental impacts and helping to protect people and communities.
Australia is still a promised land, where everything is possible: nature and wide open spaces, for those looking from Old Europe, allow important experiments also on the wine front. What answers do you have from Australian wineries on your sustainable philosophy?
There’s freedom, creativity and a desire for excellence in the Australian wine community. Our isolation, climate, vast land and ancient geology is unique and allows us to grow extraordinary produce, and create an incredibly diverse range of wine. Many of our producers embrace sustainable and organic practices, and have an intimate understanding of and respect for the land, which makes us passionate advocates for sustainability and conservation.
Can you briefly indicate the main characteristics of the cellars, members of your Association, and why their wines are special?
Our members represent over three-quarters or 75% of Australia’s 65 wine regions. They range from very small family producers to our largest exporters and consistently say they’re committed to making quality, exceptional wines. They’re constantly striving to improve the land and soil and make wines with lower impacts on the environment. What we hear most commonly is they’re committed because ‘it’s the right thing to do’ for people and the planet.
Why do we need to invest in sustainable vineyards today more than ever?
With increasing evidence of climate change impacting wine regions, time is against us and we all need to act collectively to mitigate and adapt to the changing environment. In Australia, Wine Australia and The Australian Wine Research Institute are investing heavily to support the Australian wine community through a wide variety of research and adoption activities in the areas of: vineyard and winery management, environment and climate, pest and disease management, and planting materials among many more initiatives.
Who is Sustainable Winegrowing Australia?
Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is Australia’s national program for grape growers and winemakers committed to making sustainable wine. The program is a collaborative partnership for the sector by the sector, governed by Australian Grape & Wine, Wine Australia and the Australian Wine Research Institute.