Great Britain: Sustainability initiatives in a growing wine industry

Beehives at Denbies Wine EstateBeehives at Denbies Wine Estate.

Last year was a ‘near perfect year’, according to a recent report released by the Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) trade body, written by Stephen Skelton MW.

Figures from the Food Standards Agency Wine Team showed total production reached 21.6 million (m) bottles, almost double the amount in the previous year.

Skelton forecast that if plantings continue to increase and yields to rise on the current trajectory, annual production will be around 40m bottles by 2032.

In this growing industry, sustainability is at the forefront of producers’ minds as they seek to safeguard their businesses for the future.

‘It’s massively important,’ said James Davis MW, general manager of Bolney Wine Estate. ‘[In the future] access to water will be difficult, pesticides will become much more expensive, so the more we can act and operate sustainably, but also with a commercial thought process in terms of what we are doing, the better.’

Denbies Wine Estate, one of England’s largest single estate vineyards, became the first vineyard and winery in the UK to achieve Net Zero certification to the UK Carbon Code of Conduct standard (UKCCC) in April this year.

The latest figures from the Surrey estate, including the bumper harvest and bottling from 2023, show that Denbies sequestered more carbon than it emitted, leaving a carbon balance of -96 tonnes of CO2e.

Measures that Denbies has undertaken include leaving 4ha of vineyard in a natural state to promote biodiversity, installing solar panels on the winery building for self-generating green energy, and environmental best practice for all new capital investment.

The estate has also had success with the Solaris grape. As a PIWI variety, it is highly resistant to fungal disease, meaning that less spraying is required in the vineyard.

‘We started off blending the Solaris into some of our other wines but it’s actually stood up really well on its own in producing our orange wines,’ said CEO Chris White. The estate has also gone on to use some of the bi-product from the wine in its vermouth.

Bolney is also making use of PIWI plantings. Davis told Decanter that the estate has found Rondo to have ‘about a third less of a carbon footprint than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir’. He likens the variety to Cabernet Franc in terms of its flavour profile and believes that the sustainability benefits will be well received by consumers, who are ever more aware of climate change.

Bolney Wine Estate

Bolney Wine Estate. Photo: James Ratchford

Without the restrictions of permitted varieties or other regulations of Old World regions, producers in Britain have the ability to try out these kind of sustainable approaches.

‘We don’t have to unpick a legacy and as a result, can be a bit more on top of the science,’ said Anne Jones, who is sustainability ambassador for WineGB among other sustainability consultancy roles.

Back in Sussex, Rathfinny Wine Estate achieved B Corp status last year, becoming the first sparkling wine producer that grows all of its own grapes to do so. It also has its sights set on becoming carbon Net Zero by 2030.

Winery manager, Tony Milanowski, spoke to Decanter about the innovative measures the estate has introduced, which include the use of an electro-dialysis machine for cold stabilisation, the process which prevents the possibility of tartrate crystals appearing in wine.

The process is usually carried out by either the addition of chemicals, which may not be desirable to a producer or consumer, or by using very low temperatures, which in turn uses a great deal of energy. The use of electricity as an alternative is a far more energy efficient option and highly effective.

Milanowski has also looked to other industries for inspiration when it comes to saving energy. Taking tips from the pneumatics industry he was able to improve the efficiency of Rathfinny’s air compression systems. He also looked at the refrigeration sector in terms of adapting glycol…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/great-britain-sustainability-initiatives-in-a-growing-wine-industry-531623/