By Fergal Gleeson
The need for action on sustainability is understood by most. The weight of evidence on record breaking temperatures, unprecedented levels of carbon and melting polar ice caps is hard to ignore.
Winemakers in Australia and in Margaret River have responded. Over 30 Wineries in Margaret River are members of Sustainable Wine growing Australia (SWA).
SWA is the Australian wine industry’s sustainability program – set up to support growers and winemakers to improve the sustainability of their businesses. SWA is managed by the Australian Wine Research Institute supported by Wine Australia and Australian Grape & Wine.
Being a member requires the submission to SWA of environmental, social and economic data on energy consumption, water usage, waste and biodiversity. About half of the 30 wineries are Certified Members meaning that in addition to supplying data they are independently audited.
I spoke to three winemakers about what they are doing about sustainability and why they are doing it.
Ben Cane is a Winemaker at Cape Mentelle, an Australian who has spent much of his career in California before coming to Margaret River in 2018.
“Cape Mentelle have always had a great respect for the land and we understand the privilege of owning and tending old vines”, Ben tells me. Cape Mentelle are long term members of ‘Sustainable Winegrowing Australia’ which Ben feels is important.
“It’s a measure of our commitment and puts into action rather than just words how strongly we feel.”
While many people ‘talk the talk’ on environmental matters it was interesting to find out the concrete initiatives Cape Mentelle are driving.
“We have been focussed on reducing our carbon footprint in all we do in the winery, vineyard, offices and warehouses. Solar panel installation, conversion to LED lighting, more highly detailed recycling and waste separation, compost creation, elimination of herbicide use and undervine cultivation,” Ben tells me.
“We bring sheep to graze between our vines between winter and spring, which helps us avoid cultivation when soils can be wet and will be compacted by running tractors over them.
We have the added benefit of receiving the manure for fertilisation from our woolly friends. This results in vastly improved soil health, which can result in better resource utilisation, less pollution and ultimately better balanced vines.”
“The biggest impact in the vineyard has been decreased water usage by using precision viticulture to highlight specific areas requiring irrigation, allowing us to reduce usage by 60% between 2016 and 2019.” Cape Mentelle are now fully water self-sufficient.
“Our water capture and recycling system is a great example of a passive flow method of solid removal using natural means allowing us to avoid town water use, capturing rain to supply Cape Mentelle.
Our winery waste water is sent back through a series of detoxifying dams of reed beds that remove impurities and allow us to irrigate a wood lot.”
“Upgrading our tractor fleet to be more fuel efficient and using recycling sprayers to recapture any excess spray improve resource utilisation and reduce pollution,” Ben points out.
“Extensive use of compost and natural fertilisers help to improve our water holding capacity in the soil by building organic matter and allow the vines better means of resisting climatic change. “
“Cape Mentelle are in the final stages of attaining ISO14001 certification which is an auditable international standard of environmental practices in the winery, vineyard and all facets of our business. It’s a very rigorous program, but once again illustrates our commitment to sustainability” Ben says.
Originally appeared on http://www.margaretriver.wine