What does sustainability have to do with winemaking?

By / Magazine / May 1st, 2019 / 20

I know, just what the wine world needs: another seemingly convoluted buzzword that takes everything short of a puppet show to explain. To come clean, I wasn’t that sure what sustainability really meant to the wine industry until I spent some time in New Zealand: a country that has embraced the philosophy with an Incredible Hulk‒like grip.

While the Kiwis aren’t the only winemakers digging their dirt (Canada, California, South America, South Africa and Australia have documented bragging rights too), they can claim a 94 per cent adoption rate to the country’s well-thought-out sustainability rules and regulations.

In a grape skin, sustainability is an environmental master plan that winemakers have adopted which, at its most basic level, has them borrowing their land from future generations rather than using and abusing it for short-term gain.

The organization Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand explains it like this: “[our] members are committed to protecting the unique places that make our famous wines by reducing the use of chemicals, energy, water and packaging, and wherever possible reusing and recycling materials and waste.”

While that mouthful may be a bit hard to digest all at once, think of sustainability as a winery’s way of monitoring, measuring and reducing its influence on its natural surroundings while returning any distressed property to its former glory.

If it all sounds like vine-hugging gobbledygook, put a conversation with a New Zealand winemaker on your liquid-education bucket list. Humble to the point of almost being Canadian, they will all happily yak your ear off about what preserving their amazing part of the world means to them well before you ever get to take a sip of their wine.

Like a good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, sustainability is refreshing in its approach and worthy of every wine fan’s support.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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