The sustainability of our planet is endangered by a variety of different irresponsible actions. The responsibility of cellars in this regard is consequently not only limited to the processes and procedures that are implemented to confirm their environmental awareness, but their image amongst consumers is also influenced by it. It is seen as very positive if a cellar is defined as green.
Over the recent decade, the awareness about the environment and sustainability has increased and its momentum continues. The application of sustainable practices, soil conservation, the decrease of the environmental impact and the knowledge that the present generation must make provision for future generations, have become a permanent agenda item at producers and wine cellars. It is actually seen as negative when the consequences of their actions on their footprint are not borne in mind. Practices that are defined as green, do however have a cost impact and an environmental strategy must consequently make financial and sustainability sense. A green strategy must not only favour the environment, but also the brands of the cellar to increase the profit margin.
The environmental awareness of cellars must however comply with certain requirements:
● The target market of consumers, who require it, must be understood, in order to present wines to that specific market. Although the market that requires environmental awareness is a growing market, it is still significantly smaller than the general, commercial wine market.
● If a cellar has an environmental strategy, it must be applied practically and be visible, instead of containing only eloquent words.
● The pricing of products in this market must be such that it is commercially viable and fits in the price bracket of the target market.
The environmental awareness of producers and cellars are manifested by different practices. The effective use of water is significant, seeing that the water usage is high in the vineyard. One of the ways is the recirculation of the cellar’s effluent water and the catch up of rain water for the irrigation of vineyards. Seeing that cellars are frequently operated, continuously much electricity and energy are used. Solar panels can be erected to ensure a considerable saving of electricity. Harmful chemicals destroy the soil quality and natural ecosystems. Some winemakers also believe it has an influence on the wine taste. Many cellars consequently use organic chemicals and pesticides and natural fertilisation. Cellar effluent is re-circulated if possible and the footprint of the cellar is diminished. Wine cellars are often situated in pristine environments, which can serve as the habitat for different wild species. With limited effort such species can live in harmony with vineyards and even enrich the soil. Organic practices require the use of organically grown grapes which can, together with certified winemaking practices, lead to organic wines. This will usually require that no synthetic pesticides or non-organic chemicals are used in the vineyards and wines are made without or very low sulphur dioxide concentrations and without any preservatives. Such practices must be mentioned clearly on the labelling of products. Biodynamic practices are a further step of an organic approach. The vineyard is cultivated as a cycle by applying organic practices, limiting waste and a sound ecosystem is created. This can be done by eliminating synthetic pesticides and non-organic chemicals, the natural enrichment of the soil and promoting microbial growth in the soil. Harvest and pruning practices are also determined by lunar phases. The market for biodynamic made wines is a small, niche market, but its consumers are prepared to pay a premium for such wines.
With the increasing supply of organic and biodynamically made wines, the environmental awareness of cellars has become a reality in the wine world, which emphasises that such wines exhibit the terrain at its best. Irrespective of the size of the cellar, the balance with financial realities should always be maintained (Stolle, 2019).
Stolle, M., 2019. It’s good practice to be green. Australian and New Zealand Grapegrower and Winemaker, February 2019: 72 – 74.