And the winners are…
Villa Maria Estate
Villa Maria Estate may have won the sustainable business of the year award but the winemaker has been working on making its business sustainable for a lot longer.
Founder Sir George Fistonich started Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand back in 1995, and almost all New Zealand winegrowers are now signed up.
“It’s an industry where people have roots in the land and care about these things so they are very conscious of sustainablity issues from an environmental perspective,” says Villa Maria director Fabian Yukich.
He says the company has taken an environmentally responsible approach to building new wineries in Auckland and Marlborough. It was the first major producer to put all its wine in screw-capped bottles back in 2001.
“Some customers cancelled orders so there was a lot of work talking them around, but now 95% of the New Zealand wine industry uses screw caps.” That means that up to 8% of wine is no longer “corked” or spoiled by reaction to a fungus in cork.
As the largest independent producer, what Villa Maria does can affect the whole industry. Packaging accounts for about a third of the company’s carbon footprint, so it has worked with its suppliers to reduce the weight of its glass bottles by an average 10%.
Yukich says the CEMARS certification, which is managed by Landcare Research, allows the company to keep track of progress.
“We are a family business so we take a long term view. We want something there for the next generation. “Some things we are doing like the move to organic vineyards, is costly to start but we find we are getting better fruit. About 30% of our grapes are organically managed.”
Villa Maria Estate director Fabian Yukich: “We are a
family business so we take a long-term view.”