Paul Jaboulet Aîné
A legendary name in the Rhône, Jaboulet has been able to use its fantastic resources to create positive change in areas regarding sustainability – yet another reason we are so delighted to work with them. Biodynamic principles are now followed in Jaboulet’s vineyards, and organic certification was achieved in 2016; use of copper sulphites is kept to a strictly controlled minimum (less than half that permitted for organic vineyards) with the amount used reducing each year. The efforts around biodiversity at Jaboulet are striking: three natural reserves sit on Jaboulet’s land, covering three hectares of forests – a protected home for birds and other species.
Argentina’s Weinert are among our most popular growers, their haunting, mellow reds beloved by members. But their goals stretch far beyond the joys inside the bottle. Weinert's goals are ‘to become a reference [point] in the positive impact in all areas of our community, both in the support to small family grape growers, the impact of our produce within the environment and our role in developing a fair and prosperous future for generations to come.’ To do this, they have embraced the values of Fair Trade International’s Fair For Life project.
Fair For Life encompasses the entire production chain. The vineyards (Weinert work with 20 small family vineyards) are undergoing organic conversion. Social initiatives including healthcare, nutrition, social inclusion and education are implemented by an elected committee formed by the workers. To help the project to grow, Weinert have set up a fund from sales of their 2020 Carrascal Malbec, a wine we are delighted to offer to members.
The District 7 label is owned by Scheid Family Wines, whose estate in Monterey, California, takes an impressive, wide-ranging ‘grape to glass’ approach held up as an example to others. They’ve earned certification from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and their vineyard management practices include low-impact farming, water conservation and integrated pest management (using insects to control pests), and no fewer than 250 owl boxes to control the rodent population.
In the winery and on the bottling line,100% of the power comes from a 400ft wind turbine (offsetting 3,645 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – equivalent to taking 710 vehicles off the road – in the process). Clever use of automatic sensors further helps reduce emissions, and by implementing a water recycling programme they use about 50% less water than a similarly sized winery. In the wider community, they have funded local scholarships since 1984, enabling local students to continue their studies.
Sustainability is nothing new for Portuguese producer Esporão. When the company was formed 50 years ago, its mission was to ‘make the finest wines at nature’s pace, with minimal impact on the environment’. It took 14 years to convert their vineyards to organic certification, but chairman João Roquette says they’ve seen a remarkable improvement in their land and in their wines. With properties in the Alentejo, Douro and Vinho Verde regions, Esporão represents 18% of Portugal’s organic wine production.
The company carries out an annual pest survey to check which insects are present in each vineyard, so that they can grow plants that attract their predators. You’ll find rosehip, honeysuckle, pomegranate among the Esporão hedgerows, which also protect the vines from the Alentejo’s strong winds and high temperatures. Roquette describes the future of the business thus: ‘Growth means better rather than more.’
Symington Family Estates
The Symington family have become one of the main producers of Port and table wines in Portugal’s Douro region, with the fifth generation now at the helm. They’ve been making wine there for 150 years, but the early 1990s saw them plant research vineyards in a bid to grow more sustainably. Their findings not only helped them refine their planting policy, but also took them on a path to organic viticulture.
The Symingtons support a number of environmentally friendly initiatives in Portugal, including the UTAD Wildlife Rescue Centre, which nurses injured birds and other wildlife back to health. They also work with the Research Centre for Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, based at Porto University. The centre has identified two Symington properties – Quinto do Tua and Quinta dos Malvedos – as the last habitats of the endangered black wheatear (also known as the ‘port wine bird’).
Cristóbal Undurraga of Chilean producer Viña Koyle is so passionate about ensuring his vines are in perfect condition that he actually lives with his family on the estate’s vineyard. He is adamant that organic and biodynamic farming is the way forward, and says shunning chemicals produces ‘cleaner, healthier grapes with more stability and concentration, better able to express the terroir’.
Living at the winery also allowed Undurraga to observe the impact of flora and fauna – particularly, how the local bee population is attracted to any syrah grapes whose skins split, oozing sweetness. By sucking the sugar from the grape, the bees actually prevent rot from taking hold, allowing the grapes to heal and grow normally. As a result, a collection of colourful beehives now proudly sit around the syrah vines.
Viña Koyle are also committed to renewable energy: the winery has 100 solar panels, helping to reduce energy consumption by 30%, and they also have plans to build their own 100% self-sufficient winery in the future.
American friends Charlie Brain and Walker Brown moved to South Africa in 2016, founding Lubanzi, named after a wild dog that accompanied them for more than 100 miles on their backpacking travels. After partnering with winemakers Trizanne Barnard and Bruce Jack, the duo set about launching Lubanzi, with its ‘locally run, globally minded’ mantra.
Lubanzi is 100% carbon neutral and Fairtrade accredited. It’s also a member of 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses who each donate 1% of annual profits to environmental causes. One such cause is The Pebbles Project, a South African organisation that helps disadvantaged families and children. Lubanzi donates half of its net profit to Pebbles each year.
In addition, the company is B-Corp certified, meaning it has met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.
South African winery Villiera, based in Stellenbosch, has embraced sustainability fully, with a host of measures in place that confirm its green credentials.
A rainwater harvesting system provides six million litres of rainwater each year; the winery’s boundary fences comprise rows of acacia trees, which not only suck up carbon from the atmosphere but also provide a home for insects, birds, reptiles and mammals; the estate also boasts a 220-hectare wildlife sanctuary home to game, vegetation and no fewer than 100,000 trees planted to offset carbon emissions.
The winery has also made part of its offices available to The Pebbles Project, which enriches the lives of disadvantaged children and families from the Western Cape. It’s also accredited by the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association accreditation, which promotes fair working conditions.
Cornwall’s Camel Valley is one of the most celebrated English wine producers, and is leading the sustainability charge among UK winemakers. The estate has reduced its emissions and has now achieved carbon negative certification. This means that its vineyards remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit.
To reach this goal, Camel Valley planted hedgerows and perennial crops, and created permanent wetlands and woodlands to sequester carbon. The winery has also received Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification.
Three Choirs Vineyards
Three Choirs Vineyards, based in Gloucestershire, is aiming for carbon-neutral status and has Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification. The winery collects rainwater which it uses for irrigation, and has also planted trees among its vines to encourage fauna (namely birds and bats) to take care of the local insect population.
New Zealand was the first wine-producing country to set up a national sustainability programme, and Dog Point in Marlborough is at the forefront. The winery has been 100% organic for more than a decade and has New Zealand’s largest organic vineyard.
Cover crops such as buckwheat are grown between the vines to encourage beneficial insects to help with pest control, while 2,500 sheep roam the property in winter to graze on grass and weeds. The property also features pasture, ponds and native plants to attract birdlife and boost biodiversity.
In addition, vine prunings and winery waste are turned into mulch that acts as healthy organic compost for use around the property.
Fistful of Schist
Our popular Fistful of Schist bottlings are made by Riebeek Cellars in Swartland, South Africa. What’s different about them is that they are shipped to the UK in bulk then bottled in this country. Bulk shipping and UK bottling is nothing new (The Society used to bottle Bordeaux First Growths in the late 19th century!), and it has several environmental advantages.
Shipping wine in bulk uses 40% less CO₂ and allows double the volume of wine to be transported in the same space. A standard container filled with bottles only holds 41% of the volume of wine shipped in bulk (in flexitanks). For wines destined to be drunk within 12 months, bulk shipping is definitely the way forward.
California winery Tablas Creek has practised organic viticulture for 20 years, and received biodynamic certification in 2017. The winery has its own herd of alpacas and sheep, who eat the cover crops sown between vine rows and fertilise the soil.
Tablas Creek was the first producer in the US to be certified as ‘organic regenerative’, which focuses on soil health. Irrigation has gradually been reduced, encouraging vine roots to grow deep in search of water, meaning they can survive periods of drought. Regenerative viticulture also covers animal welfare and social fairness, recognising that animals on the estate are looked after, and that employees are paid fairly and work in safe conditions.
Celebrated Champagne house Louis Roederer has made a conscious shift towards organic and biodynamic viticulture for the past two decades, a move it describes as ‘renaissance viticulture’. Half of Roederer’s vineyards are now certified organic – the long-term goal is 100% – and the estate has also carried out landscaping and hedgerow planting to encourage wildlife to flourish.