By Fergal Gleeson
David Martin is the co-owner of boutique winery Stormflower Vineyard in Wilyabrup and was a cofounder with his business partners of Little Creatures Brewery in Freemantle. Their production is on a very different scale to Cape Mentelle but they are no less passionate about sustainability.
“I basically wanted to run the vineyard in way that looked after the environment as much as possible, and did not involve the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers” he tells me. “Organic certification provided a verifiable way of doing this, and Stormflower has been certified organic since 2016. Once I had certified organic grapes, the move to certified organic winemaking was the logical next step.”
“We don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. We use certified organic composts and fertilisers, we use sheep to control weeds and minimise the amount of machinery used for this purpose, and we do as little disturbance of the soil as possible.
The biggest impact that Stormflower has made has been in the use of certified organic composts and fertilisers. This encourages and enables the build-up of the soil biology, which allows the vines to take up nutrients naturally.
As well as being certified organic Stormflower are also members of SWA.
“It is important because it focusses on measuring and recording data that is different from that required for organic certification, such as the efficiency of use of water and energy, and actions taken around waste management and biodiversity” he tells me. “The discipline around keeping records of this data will encourage us to find ways to improve our performance in these areas.”
I asked David if there confusion about what ‘sustainable’ means versus other ‘green’ approaches like organic, biodynamic or natural winemaking.
“Probably, as they are very different things, a producer can have very strong certified sustainability credentials via the SWA programme without being organic, biodynamic or natural. Both “sustainable” and “natural” are ill defined terms. Even with certification, there is no specific standard of sustainability under the SWA programme. It simply means the data that is being recorded is verified.”
“Both organic and biodynamic have certification standards with respect to viticulture and winemaking. Properly done, with certified grapes, organic and biodynamic winemaking are all environmentally sustainable practices.”
David has put together a useful website on Margaret River wineries that are certified organic and biodynamic https://www.margaretriverorganicwine.com/ and those that are in progress towards it.
There are currently 5 wineries who are certified to one of the standards and whose current range of wines is entirely certified organic or biodynamic: Cullen Wines, Blind Corner, Burnside Organic, Settlers Ridge and Stormflower. Encouragingly there are 16 more on the journey. Cullen Wines is also ‘carbon negative’ which means that they are removing more carbon from the atmosphere through offsetting initiatives than they are creating.
The next steps in terms of sustainability for Stormflower Vineyard will involve enhancing the biodiversity of the vineyard through revegetation of the land that is not under vine and increasing the diversity of plants within the vineyard area.
For long term and highly awarded Xanadu Winemaker Glenn Goodall “It really just comes down to wanting ‘to do our bit’ and to demonstrate some environmental stewardship.”
About a decade ago, the opportunity arose to get involved with an environmental pilot program and Glenn was keen for Xanadu to join so that they could benefit and improve by being part of a recognised program.
For Xanadu initiatives have included investing in equipment and practices to become more energy and water efficient, recycling, composting, reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the business. They have implemented land care plans, based on biodiversity and biosecurity on the Estate vineyards and encouraged Growers to do the same.
“In the short term I’m looking forward to finally getting the winery converted over to solar power!” he says.
For Glenn there’s no ‘silver bullet’ to sustainability. “It all adds up, but it’s the cumulative effect that results in the biggest impact, which is our attitude and endeavour to keep improving.”
“Record keeping is not a particularly ‘sexy’ aspect, however the requirement to keep accurate records around energy and water use, effluent management, biodiversity etc. means that we have got metrics that we can measure ourselves against,” he tells me.
Unlike Cape Mentelle and Stormflower, Xanadu have taken the extra step of becoming Certified Members of the SWA.
“We certainly feel that it is important to be certified,” Glenn says ”it give us peace of mind that our sustainability claims have been independently verified, and it will now permit us use of a certified trust mark – an assurance to customers and consumers of how the product is produced.”
“There is often confusion about what various claims in this space means; ‘sustainable’ does not necessarily mean organic or biodynamic, although these approaches certainly embrace sustainability! Gaining certification, in whatever approach is used, is the best way to verify how wines have been grown and made.”
For Glenn being part of the program allows Xanadu to benchmark performance against producers all around Australia.
This is perhaps the greatest benefit of working on sustainability through membership of the SWA. The sharing of information shows where there’s room for improvement.
Images coutesy of Xanadu Wines. Originally appeared on http://www.margaretriver.wine