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Sense and sustainability: How wine producers are protecting the environment

As we release our annual green issue this month, we asked wine producers from around the world about what initiatives they have put in place to ensure their wineries are run sustainably.

Stefano Ferrante, chief winemaker, Zonin1821 

“At Zonin1821, we are strongly focused on promoting a green culture. The Tuscan estates in our portfolio, Castello di Albola and Rocca di Montemassi, were among the first in Italy to obtain the Equalitas certification, which focuses on the environmental, social and economic sustainability of wineries, with the support of the UIV – Union of Italian Wine Companies.

The companies must quantify the impact of measurable and objective parameters related to their production activities, taking in biodiversity, pest management, water footprint, carbon footprint, interaction with the community, and the social impact of the company, to evaluate the sustainability status of best practices adopted in the vineyards and winery.

With water saving, our estates use the drip irrigation method managed by the Vintel digital programme, which allows rationalised irrigation based on forecast weather. Special pressure chambers allow the level of hydration of individual vines to be measured, guaranteeing irrigation only when necessary.”

Carlos de Jesus, director of marketing and communication, Amorim & Irmãos 

“Sustainability is at the heart of our entire operation, starting with the fact that cork oaks are a natural and native species to the areas where we source our raw material. If you are making the world’s most environmentally friendly, natural bottle closures, then your production methods should be as green as possible.

That way, we can provide the best solutions for any winery seeking to improve their sustainability credentials. After all, if they are working hard to offer sustainably produced wines for eco- conscious retailers and consumers, then the closure must be real cork, with all its proven added value advantages. At the same time, ease of recycling is becoming a key issue – particularly in light of alternative metal stoppers and the growing furore over plastics.

Several hundreds of millions of corks have already been recycled worldwide and ground down for secondary applications, from flooring to sandals.”

Pedro Salguero, chief winemaker, Bodega Ijalba 

“Our aim is to protect and respect the characteristics of our land, which is why in 1998 we became the first organic-certified winery in Rioja.

The water used in the winery has been purified and gathered to hydrate the vineyards and refrigerate the tanks during fermentation. The stems from pruning are used to fertilise our vineyards. We’re lowering our carbon footprint by reducing the weight of our glass bottles and the thickness of our packaging.”

Elena Carretero, director of sustainability, Santa Rita 

“Sustainable development is the main pillar of Santa Rita’s strategic map. We have put in place a sustainability programme of initiatives with a special emphasis on creating shared values with our community and improving the lives of our workers and their families.

Our WiSe project stems from the need to produce wines of the best quality and optimal productivity. We analyse the soils to select the best variety and rootstock, considering geology, soils, exposure to the sun, irrigation and the plant itself.

We optimise the use of our resources, ensuring the long- term sustainability of our grape supply. We have also implemented procedures to optimise energy and water efficiency in our vineyards, cellars and production plants.”

Johan Delport, chief winemaker, Waverley Hills 

“Waverley Hills has been at the forefront of sustainable and organic farm practises for years, and produces quality certified organic wines.

Situated in the Tulbagh Valley in the Western Cape in South Africa, the area receives around 550mm of rain per year. Seven years ago the estate embarked on a programme to conserve irrigation water by laying down shade cloth on the soil in the vineyards. Strips of 1.5 metres are laid underneath the vines and are kept in place by applying small amounts of soil on the ends of the cloth. With this process the sun gets blocked out by the shade cloth, which prevents weeds from growing underneath it.

The permeability of the cloth allows the irrigation water to go through to the soil and feeds the vines’ roots. The cloth also prevents evaporation, keeping the soil moist and cool, which helps preserve the amount of irrigation water that needs to be given to the vines. The project has been a pioneering initiative for the South African wine industry.”

Jean-Claude Mas, owner, Domaines Paul Mas 

“Rural luxury is our philosophy, and it starts with the assertion that biodynamism is a means, not an end. It is the means of becoming truly respectful of the environment to produce grapes in the most natural way possible, but without any of the confines of certification.

Any certification must answer the question: what is the best way to grow the crop to be able to offer a wine that is tasty and produced in a healthy way? I have banned the use of herbicides, insecticides and a number of synthetic materials used for protection against fungal infections in my vineyards.

Our vines have become stronger as a result. A true organic farming regime is the combination of agricultural practices that respect the environment, allied to technical and technological advances.”

Miguel A. Torres, president, Familia Torres

“Our Torres & Earth programme has the objective of reducing our CO2 emissions per bottle from the vineyard to the final transportation by 30% by 2020.

Since 2008, we have invested more than €12 million (£10.8m) in the project and, so far, have reduced our carbon emissions per bottle by 25.4%. Torres & Earth has a relatively wide approach and includes renewable energies, eco-efficiency in transport, optimisation of water use, adaption measures in the vineyards, and biodiversity, which includes forest stewardship and reforestation.

In 2017 we started a Carbon Capture and Reuse programme, experimenting with different CCR technologies to find ways of making use of the CO2 produced from fermentation. We also switched to organic viticulture in the 1980s.”

Sebastian Tramon, sustainability manager, Viñedos Emiliana

“At Emiliana we believe that organic and biodynamic practices are the key to working in a sustainable way, particularly when it comes to the regeneration and care for our soils. Hence, we are improving the way we produce compost, which is the main food for the soils in our vineyards.

We are working with consultants, other companies and research centres to achieve this goal. The biodiversity under the soil is important to us, so we are devoted to understanding what is living in our soils and how we can increase the presence of beneficial microorganisms.

We also believe that in soils there is an opportunity to avoid emissions of greenhouse gases. By constantly adding organic matter to our soils we are helping to stabilise carbon that otherwise would go into the atmosphere.”

Anne Bousquet, owner and CEO, Domaine Bousquet 

“Sustainability includes economic sustainability for the surrounding community. When we settled in Tupungato, Chile, the area was a rural backwater.

We joined an alliance of local wineries in funding the construction of a new road, providing better access for employees, deliveries and a growing number of tourists.

Our crops are grown in harmony with nature without using any chemicals. Instead, we use natural fertilisers, including our own compost. We also take care of water shortages by investing in water treatment facilities to minimise our consumption and reuse it for irrigation.

We only use lightweight glass bottles for our entire portfolio. Being organic was never a sales gimmick. Stewardship of the land is a necessity. Unlike many wineries, whose organic wines are a line within the portfolio mix, Domaine Bousquet’s fruit has been 100% organic from the off.”

Bárbara Wolff, chief corporate affairs officer, VSPT Wine Group

“Sustainability is a strategic priority for VSPT. In the past decade, our initiatives have been based on water management and balanced agricultural practices.

This includes a large-scale biodiversity programme at Viña Tarapacá at our Rosario estate in the Maipo Valley. Carbon-footprint management has also been a priority, mainly through the generation of renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects. We have taken up the challenge of producing wine using 100%- renewable energy by 2021.

To achieve this, we are employing a mixture of clean energies, including bioenergy from our biogas plant at Viña San Pedro, as well as two important solar energy projects. We hope to continue growing along this path to help keep our magnificent wine industry running in a healthy, friendly, eco-conscious way.”

Valentina Lira, sustainability manager, Concha y Toro

“In 2012, Concha y Toro developed a sustainability strategy that has six pillars: supply chain, product, clients, people, society and environment. The company has set out to achieve a 100% supply of electricity based on renewable energy by 2020. Last year, 73% of our supply was renewable energy. In 2018 the winery launched the Concha y Toro factory initiative to enhance entrepreneurship.

This aims to transform us into a start-ups business accelerator, which allows different entrepreneurs to be brought closer to the company, giving them the possibility to work together in the co-creation of solutions for Concha y Toro and gain experience.

We believe we have made progress, but the journey is still full of challenges that the company must tackle to transform itself into a world-class business known for its sustainable practices. That is our greatest aim.”

Cindy Devries, Chief Operating Officer, Fetzer Vineyards

“Operating sustainably at Fetzer Vineyards is something we accomplish with the support and collaboration of our entire organisation.

We have a full-time colleague dedicated to identifying and solving complex sustainability issues while pioneering regenerative practices in the wine industry. Supporting her efforts is a cross- departmental group that develops sustainability-focused initiatives, and shares ideas for engaging employees in sustainability efforts.

Building on 50 years of sustainable practices, during which time we have successfully developed Bonterra into a global leader in organic wine, and have operated on renewable energy for nearly three decades, today we’re looking to share our findings to inspire others to pursue sustainable practices.”

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