Irrigating vines, powering machinery, packaging and transportation – the production of wine can be surprisingly tough on the environment. But in recent years the industry has been making some big changes towards sustainable practices.
Anthony Walkenhorst has been around long enough to understand this awakening. The head winemaker at Round Theory wines in NZ, Walkenhorst oversees the implentation of relatively novel sustainable practices, such as a smaller, lighter bottle, vegan friendly wines and offsetting double the carbon emissions. In fact Round Theory’s ethos is: “to make great wines that have a positive impact on the planet.” But Walkenhorst also remembers a time when knowledge of winemakings effect on natural resources was limited.
“I grew up in Melbourne and moved to the Barossa Valley in the early 2000s,” says Walkenhorst. “There were quite a lot of water shortages over there, and [being mindful of it] was a focus in wineries. When I came over to New Zealand in 2005, while there were some aspects of sustainability, I was surprised at how far behind they were. Now they’ve come ahead in leaps and bounds. There’s been a big push in New Zealand [towards sustainability] in the last 10 years.”
Much of this is owed to clever new technologies. Precision and calculation is now working side by side with instinct and tradition.
“Previously the way of watering your grape vines was, you’d set it and say, ‘It needs this many litres per day,’” says Walkenhorst. “Now we’re testing the water and using sensors that tell you how much water you’ve got in your soil at any one time, in any vineyard. That’s been a great benefit. It basically means we’re not having to water as much in some years to keep the vines healthy.”
Power usage is also being analysed and reduced. “There’s a few technologies around trying to reduce the cooling of [grape] juice,” says Walkenhorst of the power-intensive process. “That’s when you have to chill a great mass of juice coming through the winery, then have to heat it back up again for fermentation. We’ve now got technologies that mean we don’t have to do those temperature shifts.”
Packaging and sustainability
For environmentally-focused producers, the nature of packaging and transportation are just as important. In the case of Round Theory, a redesign of the classic wine bottle shape has brought about a bottle that’s lighter and smaller than standard - requiring less glass to produce and needing less power to transport, helping to offset a carbon-intensive element of the wine journey.
What carbon it does use, Round Theory offsets double the amount via a partnership with the Carbon Click scheme, which sees carbon credits put to use supporting global conservation initiatives such as forest conservation, biodiverse environments as well as providing renewable energy sources.
Audits and more
For New Zealand, sustainable practices are certified through the SWNZ - Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, which audits the sustainability of vineyard practices. In Australia, it’s through the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia certification. These certifications monitor everything from the way power and water is used through the winery, to the types and quantities of pesticides used.
It’s another step in the right direction for winegrowers, with transparency and community at the heart of a desire to leave a positive impact on our environment, while the rest of us drink the wine we love.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Round Theory Wines. Browse and purchase the full range of Round Theory wines today.