A recent drive in the Hunter vineyards revealed roofs laden with solar panels, signs declaring sustainable wine, organic wine and biodynamic wine. This led me to ask about the steps the wine industry was taking to become more sustainable and reduce environmental loads.
I thank local vigneron (and UON graduate) Mark Davidson and Jock Harvey, from McLaren Vale, for their insights.
The move is towards ecofriendly products as the target markets here and overseas are better informed and more aware of ecological concerns. Ignoring sustainability is not an option. Sustainable farming has to consider mitigation and reduction of waste, efficient use of energy and water and nurture of the soils for the long term. But this must be done in an economically feasible manner.
Electricity bills have been slashed by massive solar panel installations, allowing more effective irrigation systems. Across Australia the introduction of the lightweight glass, bottles has reduced the transport, packaging and energy costs of bottle delivery for consignments. McLaren Vale instituted a sustainability program for grape growing in 2009. This program assists grape growers to adopt practices that are sensitive to the environment and the community, and that are economically feasible to maintain. Data capture and benchmarking reports highlight opportunities for improvement year on year.
Similarly, the Entwine Initiative popular in NSW encourages member wineries to adopt waste minimisation and pollution prevention strategies. Biodynamic sprays are being used to build soil structure, deter insect attack and increase water-holding capacity. Recycling and reuse of water, along with rainwater capture has top priority.
Momentum is building among producers to discard unsustainable chemical formulations, which are also found potentially harmful to human health on the farm and as well as residual in wines. As Mark says, viticulture has been part of the Hunter for nearly 200 years and vineyards today are performing more consistently than ever despite some climate challenges, attesting to the sustainability of the industry.