A summary of the presentation given to the UK wine trade in London on 9th September 2009 by Professor Yerko Moreno, the University of Talca, Chile
Many people acknowledge that Chile is blessed with a benign climate and a unique geography that combine to provide excellent conditions for growing grapes in as natural a way as possible. However, not only does the Chilean wine trade wish to lead the way in creating a sustainable environment, and set examples for future generations of winemakers, it also wants to demonstrate this in a tangible way that can be understood by consumers.
To this end, under the auspices of Vinos de Chile–the wineries association–and the technical consortium Vinnova and TechoVid, the University of Talca has been developing a Chilean Code for Sustainable Wine Production and trialling it during 2008/09 with a number of Colchagua Valley wineries, notably Caliterra.
Professor Yerko Moreno first summarised the challenges faced by any winemaker the world over; how to:
- maximise the production of high quality grapes at a reasonable cost
- improve system efficiency with lower (or nil) use of chemicals, fertilizers, and labour
- care for the environment and the employees
- work carefully and responsibly with the local community
Most vineyards in Chile are farmed conventionally, but an increasing number are converting to organic or even biodynamic principles. However, full certification of these processes can be a costly and time consuming and it is clear that consumers are not fully aware of the precise meaning of ‘organic’ wine. Thus an ‘integrated’ method is favoured that aims to provide high quality fruit by giving priority to ecologically safer production methods, minimising the undesirable effects of agrochemical use, and enhancing the safeguards to the environment and the community.
The mantra is that Wine production should be:
- Environmentally friendly
- Economically viable
- Socially equitable
Sustainability means recognising wine as part of a complete system that is not confined to the vineyard but encompasses the winery, the employees, and the local community.
Ensuring sustainability involves measuring traceability from the vineyard to the glass and creating rules and environmentally friendly solutions that are measurable and acceptable to the wine trade as a whole, using independent, third-party evaluations and certification.
The SUSTAINABILITY CODE that is being created within the Chilean wine trade consists of three principal ‘chapters’:
The Green Chapter – this covers what happens in the vineyard itself and the viticultural practices used; it also incorporates areas such as cover crops, pruning, soil nutrition, irrigation, and pest management, etc.
The Red Chapter – this covers what happens in the winery and the offices and buildings that surround it. It monitors winemaking practices, energy efficiency, water conservation, and solid and liquid waste management.
The Orange Chapter – subjects covered include air quality and human resources, as well as the relationships and interactions with neighbours and the local community.
Using these three areas of monitoring, a number of protocols are being developed and wineries will be given mean scores based on how well they perform against set criteria. If they score above a set minimum level they will be able to use the SUSTAINABILITY seal of approval.
As part of the research process a total of 31 vineyards throughout Chile have been tested on the Green Chapter criteria with very positive results, and the majority have scored well above the ‘ideal’ level.
For the remainder of 2009 and during 2010 there will be a review of the Red and Orange chapters, leading to the production of a working manual for grape growers and further consultation. A third-party certification scheme will subsequently be developed and implemented, and finally, an official logo will be created to be used as tangible evidence that Chile makes natural wines in a responsible manner in a ‘green and pleasant land,’ as a means of gaining the confidence of wine consumers around the world.
Download the booklet: “Energy Efficiency & Climate Change in the Wine Industry” (36-page pdf)