New Zealand’s commitment to producing award-winning wines, that reflect its landscape and climate, has driven the country’s wine industry to become a world leader in sustainability.
Sustainability is considered as key to the on-going success of the industry as it preserves the quality of New Zealand’s natural resources to enable the continued production of top-quality wine for generations to come.
Energy conservation and waste reduction initiatives are now engrained into the culture of wine production throughout New Zealand’s 10 wine-making regions, which produce almost 200 million litres of wine annually for export and domestic consumption.
The New Zealand wine industry aims to be the first in the world to become 100% sustainable.
Introduced in 1995, Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand (SWNZ) is a voluntary, industry-wide initiative developed to provide an environmental 'best practice' model for both vineyard and winery. This framework of industry standards was set up to achieve this by vintage 2012.
The SWNZ programme now includes an estimated 94% of New Zealand's producing vineyard area which is, in turn, responsible for about 90% of the wine produced. In addition, another 3-5% of vineyard area operates under other certified organic programmes.
SWNZ provides a framework for companies to improve their performance in terms of environment, social, and economic sustainability, in both vineyard and winery. Members of the programme must adhere to 'best practice' and all wine must be produced under independently-audited schemes.
Only winegrowers that comply with the programme are able to participate in key industry events such as the London Annual Trade Tasting and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.
SWNZ has developed a database and set of management tools to identify key production issues and help individual growers develop complete environmental management systems.
Rippon Wines, Wanaka - Central Otago
Wanaka winemaker Nick Mills of Rippon, a picturesque vineyard on the shores of Lake Wanaka, strongly believes in the long-term benefits of sustainable wine growing.
Mills, who trained at several prestigious French vineyards including Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, heads the family-run boutique vineyard established in 1982.
Rippon produces organic wines that follow biodynamic principles involving rendering the vines and wines as receptive as possible to their soils and surroundings.
"To be granted the opportunity to have my input into Rippon, the land and its wines is really special and comes with a huge amount of responsibility. We have already been here for four generations and it would be lovely to be here for another four," says Mills.
Sustainable winegrowing has also been actively embraced by Pernod Ricard, one of New Zealand’s largest wine companies and the producer of top-selling labels including Church Road and Brancott Estate.
Pernod Ricard’s sustainable practices to regulate irrigation and monitor pests and diseases in all of their vineyards throughout the country, have reduced water usage and cut costs of chemicals, labour, and machinery without compromising the quality of the grapes.
Encouragement of biodiversity in vineyards aided by the use of biological pest and disease deterrents to replace chemical spraying has also helped to improve soil structure for better vine quality and yields in the nursery.
The replanting of native flora by Pernod Ricard around Brancott Estate's Kaituna vineyard in Marlborough has even resulted in it becoming environmentally healthier than it was when first developed.
And New Zealand’s pioneering heritage has fostered an innovative culture which has also helped to drive sustainable winegrowing.
‘Falcons for Grapes’ is a conservation programme that uses the endangered native New Zealand falcon, the karakea, as a natural pest deterrent while providing the birds with a safe breeding environment.
It is a scheme active on a number of Brancott vineyards in Marlborough, a region which produces close to 75% of New Zealand’s export wines and the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.
Yealands - Marlborough
Marlborough is also home to New Zealand’s largest privately-owned and carbon neutral winery, Yealands Estate.
Set in the rolling foothills of the Awatere Valley, Yealands’ commitment to a sustainable vision and values has driven its use of advanced green production technology and sparked many innovative green ideas.
Since the launch of its wines in August 2008, Yealands has collected many significant awards for conservation practice.
Yealands runs a number of innovative sustainable initiatives including the use of grazing miniature ‘babydoll’ sheep instead of tractors to manage grass and weeds; and the development of more than 20 wetland areas to preserve native plant species and attract native birds.
Other sustainable production techniques at Yealands include the use of solar and wind power, heat recovery systems, waste recycling, and storm weather collection for irrigation.
This contributed to an estimated energy saving of 949,000kWh in Yealands’ first year of operation, a sum that equates to the total annual energy consumption of more than 118 New Zealand households.
Yealands Estate operates a net zero carbon footprint that covers employee air travel and foreign port shipping. It is one of seven carbon neutral certified wineries in New Zealand.
Ata Rangi - Martinborough
Multiple award-winning Ata Rangi winery is a founding member of SWNZ and one of only a handful of ISO14001 certified wineries in the world. Maintaining this standard requires continual commitment to improve on practices that impact on the environment.
Established in 1980, Ata Rangi is one of the pioneering wineries of the Martinborough region. It has been praised by the Australian Financial Review as the most consistent producer in Australasia and has three times earned the coveted Bouchard-Finlayson Trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.
Ata Rangi is not only recognised for its world class pinot noir, but also for its concern for the environment. It has been the recipient of multiple environmental awards for outstanding contributions to conservation.
The 120-acre vineyard is farmed and harvested according to ISO 14001 principles to reduce the usage of water, fuel and energy. Compost is produced on site from winery waste such as grape stalks, skins, pips, and yeast lees.
Biodiversity is also fostered as a substitute for chemical insecticides and to boost soil structure. Predatory wasps are used for leaf roller caterpillar control and mixed native shelter-belts as well as inter-row wildflower planting, providing habitats for a wide variety of useful insects and microorganisms.Ata Rangi founder Clive Paton has also initiated a native forest planting scheme to help renew native rata bush while offsetting the winery’s carbon usage. The Ata Rangi Bush Block is a part of Project Crimson, a conservation scheme which aims to protect and restore the iconic native New Zealand rata and pohutukawa trees.