The Wine Society has set clear, ambitious goals on all of these areas. But we want to go further still, building on a fast-growing focus in the wine industry on biodiversity and more regenerative approaches to viticulture. We cannot do this alone, we need to work together with growers and producers to tackle these issues.
What do we mean by this? While by no means an exhaustive list, this includes practices such as:
- Using cover crops to increase organic matter in soil
- Using animals to munch the cover crops to add natural fertiliser, reducing the need for chemicals
- Giving over unused spaces on the vineyard to hedgerows and wildflowers to minimise erosion and attract a healthy mix of wildlife
- Actively encouraging certain types of insects to build a thriving ecosystem.
If this sounds like a fad, it’s worth reflecting on how many of these approaches already seem to be here to stay. Silbador, produced by Emiliana in Chile for The Wine Society, is one example. Emiliana are reversing many years of monoculture and want to encourage a vineyard teeming with life. They have hens, geese and alpacas roaming the vineyards, and they sow flowers between the vine rows to attract insects that prey on other, vine-harming species. The birds, bees and bugs act as a natural pesticide and weedkiller, and the compost is made of grape leaves, stalks and stems, as well as manure from the animals that roam the vineyards.
Over in New Zealand, Dog Point, a regular favourite with members, see their vineyard as more than just a vineyard. Biodiversity is the driving force of their philosophy, with roving chickens, orchards, beehives, pond spaces and gardens all designed to attract wildlife. This ecosystem helps to manage the water cycle in a dry climate, reduce reliance on expensive chemical inputs, improve soil health and support the vineyard to withstand more extreme and unpredictable weather.
A further sign of the popularity of this kind of approach is the recent formation of the Regenerative Viticulture Foundation, founded to promote the benefits of greater biodiversity in viticulture. With Trustees such as experienced UK wine-trade duo Stephen Cronk and Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, this is one to watch.
At The Society, we want to encourage and promote these kinds of approaches. We believe that great wine shouldn’t come at the cost of the health of our natural world, but instead should enhance it. We want to work with, and build on great initiatives like these, finding ways to improve biodiversity across our whole supply chain.
How to do this? We know we don’t have all the answers, and it would be foolish to pretend we do. What we do know is that we need to better understand the state of play for biodiversity in the wine industry, identify more growers who are doing it best and pull together a plan for how best we can work with growers to encourage more biodiverse viticulture. We’ve invested in the initial research on this and aim to share more on these plans later on this year. Watch this space!
For more information, view our sustainability section