The World’s most sustainable winery and the World’s best Chardonnay were the stated goals of Yealands Wines at its launch in 2008 and the business has been following that path ever since.
Located at Marlborough, on the top western edge of New Zealand’s South Island, 85 per cent of Yealands Wines is made up of Sauvignon Blanc, with another 12 varieties also incorporated into the program.
General Manager for Sustainability and Strategic Projects, Michael Wentworth, said the company had the ability, right from the start, to incorporate technology into the winery build and into the vineyard practices to achieve their sustainability goals.
“We've got a lot of sustainability initiatives that cover our entire supply chain,” he said. “We talk about from grass to glass so from the vineyard right through to the time that the consumer is drinking their wine.”
“Our ambition is to reduce our emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and be carbon positive by 2050. Our plan is to minimize our diesel burn, reduce our inputs and use renewable energy.”
Yealands Wines also have a 30-year biodiversity plan to plant one million native trees across the 270-hectare site.
“You're improving the health and resilience of the ecosystem within your vineyard,” Mr Wentworth said. “There's also a lot of benefit there from carbon sequestration, in terms of planting trees so that will go a long way to helping us achieve our 2050 ambition of becoming carbon positive.”
“It's the really exciting stuff that gets you out of bed in the morning. You know, you're going to leave the land way better than how you found it.”
“The way we measure the effectiveness of our sustainability activity is through a carbon footprint and that is a real, tangible indicator of how we're performing.”
In the vineyard, the use of diesel is the largest carbon emitter and so practices have been implemented to reduce that diesel burn.
In order to cut down on mowing between vines and improve the soil, a legume or other nitrogen-fixing crop has been planted in every second row and wildflowers are grown in every tenth row.
In three years, the program had increased the soil organic material by 15 per cent which has also increased the water holding capacity.
Another novel practice was the introduction of baby doll sheep. They graze between the rows, keeping the areas tidy without the use of diesel, whilst being too small to reach the fruit growing on the vines.
These changes have resulted in a thirty per cent reduction in diesel use.
An on-site composting operation utilizes grape marc and other waste and then returns it to the vineyard to add more organic material to the soil.
Approximately 15 per cent of the vine prunings are baled and seasoned and clean burned, which replaces the need for LPG gas for heating and cooling in the winery.
“That reduces our carbon footprint by about 200 tonnes per year, so a little bit of effort has made quite a significant saving.
Mr Wentworth said water quality was an important aspect of the vineyard, with 20 wetlands connected throughout the property with extensive native planting.
“We do a lot of water testing on site, and the water exiting our property is actually far superior to that coming onto the property. By the time it exits, it's worked its way through the myriad of wetlands.”
He said the vineyard had moved to science-based evidence of testing to understand what is happening to help preserve and protect the environment.
“At the moment, we do have a gap between where we're going to be in 2030 and 2050. A lot of that's going to rely on advances in technology so there's still a lot of uncertainty, but that shouldn't stop you in terms of developing your plan and developing your path.”
Packaging and freight make up 65 per cent of the total footprint and the winery is collaborating with partners to share ideas on how to address this.
Yealands Wines were also part of the Corteva Agriscience Climate Positive program recognizing agricultural businesses that are highlighting sustainability and the environment.
“I think the fantastic thing with the Corteva awards is that it's bringing like-minded people together that are super passionate about the environment,” Mr Wentworth said. “For me, it ticks all the boxes, where we get an opportunity to collaborate, talk about our challenges, and how we're going to address things going forward.”
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