And the win­ners are…

Element - - BUSINESS -

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.”

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