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Going green? Choose Kiwi wine


Going green? Choose Kiwi wine

Food miles should not be used to determine the environmental impact of New Zealand wine, says Alpha Domus wine expert Paul Ham.

A UK-based eco-journalist’s recent suggestion that British consumers choose French wine over New Zealand vintages because of their lower food miles (which measure a product's greenhouse gas emissions based on the distance traveled to the store shelf) caused an outcry among Kiwi wine producers.

“Rightly so,” says Paul. “Many New Zealand winegrowers, including Alpha Domus, pride themselves on the sustainability of their operations.

“The problem with using food miles to determine environmental impact is that transport is only a small part of the energy used in wine production.”

Alpha Domus is one of many Kiwi vineyards who belong to Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, an industry initiative which provides a best practice model for protecting the environment.

“The initiative started out as a way to keep track of the sprays used on vines. There are very strict protocols about what can and can’t be used in order to minimise our impact on the environment,”says Paul

In recent years the programme has also extended to cover the energy used by the actual wineries as a whole.

“The programme now looks at the whole process of growing grapes, including the power and water used in bottling and storing and how waste products are disposed of.”

Paul says despite the strict requirements of being certified sustainable, there is no real extra cost involved.

“It is slightly more labour intensive to do things this way, but because we’re so conscientious about limiting our power and water use, we’re not spending any more.”

Paul says ensuring the building is insulated and maintaining an ambient temperature all year round keeps costs down, though it pays to wear an extra layer or two in winter.

“Refrigeration is the biggest energy consumer in the winery as it is paramount to the production of quality wines, particularly whites. It is used throughout the process from picking to bottling,” he says.

“To conserve energy, we always try to maximise use during the cooler seasons. If refrigeration is required during the summer months for cold stabilisation, we try to cool several different wines at the same time.”

Another way in which Alpha Domus reduces their environmental footprint is by using windmills instead of helicopters to fight frosts.

“To save the vines during frost we need to create an inversion layer of temperate air, which sends a warm downdraft over the vineyards. Some vineyards use low-flying helicopters to do this, but the most environmentally friendly option is to install windmills.”

Fortunately cutting back on energy consumption doesn’t mean compromising quality. Alpha Domus’ The Navigator was awarded a silver at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards and their Viognier is just one of their wines to win medals at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

Fortunately, it seems, overseas consumers are choosing quality wine over those with lower food miles too. Figures show the latest New Zealand wine exports to the UK have increased by 23 percent on the previous year.


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