By Colm O’Neill
With the consequences of climate change becoming ever more visible around us, the need for a modern, sustainable approach to wine production in Australia is imminent. Organic and biodynamic wines are growing in popularity, reflecting a widespread desire to move away from traditional, non-sustainable viticultural practices. This demand is reflected in recent sales figures. Exports of organic and biodynamic Australian wine increased by 37 per cent in value and 50 per cent in volume in 2016 compared to the previous year, offering strong evidence that sustainable practices represent the future of viticulture.
Key to the transition from traditional to sustainable winemaking practices is identifying the natural resources Australia has available to it, and adapting production methods to make the most of these assets. One successful example of this can be seen in the case of Winemaking Tasmania, who have invested heavily in making their winery eco-friendly. Among the steps they have taken to reduce their carbon footprint is the installation of a 400-panel solar power system, which is targeted to offset over 100 tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions. What’s more, the 146,000 kilowatt-hours these solar panels produce are set to save Winemaking Tasmania an estimated $30,000 annually, highlighting yet another benefit of the push for sustainability.
With such clear environmental and financial incentives for the introduction of sustainable processes, it is little wonder that a national organisation has been established to promote these practices. Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) aims to support growers and winemakers by offering strategic direction from a team of highly experienced industry professionals. They provide resources to aid in the planning, evaluation, and control of sustainable practices, making sustainability an eminently more achievable goal.
As acknowledged by the SWA, different growers and winemakers will be working with different resources, and thus will have different paths to sustainability. For some, the focus will be on overhauling their methods of production, while for others the changes can be as simple as rethinking how they package their produce. There is no one clear route to sustainability, but every step counts along the way.
The time is now for the Australian winemaking industry to firmly embrace sustainable practices. These developments are both financially and ethically imperative. Australia cannot allow itself to fall behind other wine regions in this respect, and with the natural resources available to it, Australia is perfectly poised to act as a global leader in sustainability in the years to come.