How sustainable is the wine you’re drinking?
Australia’s wine industry is one of the biggest in the world. Because of our large land mass and regional temperature variations, we are able to produce, bottle, sell and export approximately 1.2 billion litres of god’s nectar annually, across a range of grape varieties. It’s a thriving industry that is continuing to grow, bringing with it increasing employment, exports and tourism … but at what environmental cost? And how can we make conscious choices to do better?
The environmental impact of wine production is greater than you may think. However, more winemakers are beginning to transition into sustainable methods. There are no quick routes or shortcuts when it comes to sustainable wine practises and grape growing, and I hate to get all cliché here, but it really is about the journey and the process.
There are many reasons that winemakers begin the journey that is sustainable winemaking. More often than not it’s a passion and a cause they care strongly about. But why should you care? Not only are sustainable wine practises better for the environment, but better for your health too! Here are some things you won’t find in any sustainably made bottle of wine:
Pesticides - As well as being hazardous to our health, the widespread spraying of toxic pesticides can severely affect insect and bird health, leading to declining population numbers.
Herbicides & fungicides - These can contaminate the groundwater and degrade the soil, making it dependent on fertilisers. Some herbicides and fungicides have even been linked to cancer, making them particularly dangerous for vineyard workers and those nearby.
And here are some of the eco-friendly practices your favourite sustainable wines do incorporate:
Biodynamics / organics - This form of agriculture improves crop efficiency, aims to leave the land nourished and adds vitality to the soil.
Mulching / composting - Using the discarded stems and wine waste as compost to spread on the vineyards increases organic matter and acts as a mulch to enrich the soil.
Recycled water - Wineries produce a lot of wastewater during the production process, which is why many have started recycling water for use in irrigation.
So, what are some top tier natural and sustainably grown wineries that won’t negatively impact the environment?
We’ve put together some of our favourite sustainable wineries:
- Tamburlaine: Not only is Tamburlaine the largest producer of organic wines in Australia, but the winemakers have a strong, passionate vision - Contemporary Organics. The winemakers are carving the way for a more ethical and sustainable wine industry by composting all of their winery outputs to assist the growth of organic matter, while also offering a preservative-free range of organic wines without added sulphur.
- Inkwell: Dudley and Irina from Inkwell in South Australia have a strong focus on sustainability, especially in their soil. Inkwell officially removed the regular use of herbicides in 2007 and since 2010, have used a natural mixture of elements including mineral dust and fulvates to improve root life. Dudley and Irina continue to interact with their community by educating others about sustainability systems and helping with local initiatives.
- Blind Corner: The first Western Australian winery to have their vineyards and bottling line be Certified Organic and Biodynamic. In 2009, Blind Corner shifted its focus to a more natural winemaking style and transformed their Quindalup winery to become an organic and biodynamic estate. The family-owned winery hasn’t left any land without use, by creating a Biodynamic vegetable garden and a home for plenty of bees and free-range chickens!
- Stella Bella: Stella Bella is rated amongst the most outstanding wineries in Australia, with five unique vineyards spread across the beautiful Margaret River landscape. The close-knit team from Stella Bella launched their impressive range ‘Otro Vino’, which, particularly, experiments with low-intervention winemaking including 100% wild-fermented Chardonnay and unrefined Shiraz.