Master of Wine Emma Jenkins looks at New Zealand’s growing commitment to sustainability and land conservation in the wine industry.
New Zealanders are fortunate to enjoy a (mostly!) clean, green environment and our wine benefits from its perception as “the riches of a clean, green land”. In return, our wine producers have embraced sustainability via the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) programme and an increasing number are turning to organic and biodynamic methods.
Around 95 per cent of wine producers belong to SWNZ, which sets standards and accountability for vineyard and winery practices and offers ongoing support and resources for improving sustainability efforts. Of course,
SWNZ is just a starting point for many, with numerous initiatives now in place, including solar and wind-powered wineries, fully recyclable water systems, establishment of native bird and plant corridors, falcon habitat rehabilitation, amazing wetlands, miniature sheep as vineyard “mowers” (truly!) – the list goes on and on...
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability and producers vary in their abilities, philosophies and budgets. But there’s agreement on the importance of practices that benefit the environment – because making great wine demands long-term commitment to the land.
New Zealand has a high proportion of small, family-owned producers, almost all of whom want to leave their property in better shape for the next generation. Minimising their impact on the land, conserving water and energy and improving vineyard biodiversity is their daily work.
A step onwards is organic or biodynamic cultivation. Organic producers focus on soil health and biodiversity and use no synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides, instead choosing naturally derived products or working with nature, such as combating an insect pest with its natural predator. Biodynamics goes further, managing the vineyard as a holistic organism and working with the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars.
Currently around eight per cent of New Zealand’s vineyards are certified either organic or biodynamic, with the aim of achieving 20 per cent by 2020. Look for the BioGro or Demeter symbols on bottles.
These days even my small-town supermarket has a diverse array of sustainable/Fair Trade and organic goods, including wine. It’s still up for debate whether organic wine (or food) is in fact better for you, but it’s certainly pretty hard to argue that fewer chemicals is a bad thing. I’ll happily raise a glass of good New Zealand wine to more sustainable stewardship of our land!
Initiatives include miniature sheep as vineyard ‘mowers’.