Winemaker's Comment - Spring 2022


This might be the first time I have sent out a release letter that doesn’t talk about our wines!

Over the years, the line ‘being a good global citizen’ has increasingly felt like a general expression of ‘feelgood’; a placebo statement that means very little. Not this year, though.  2022 seems to be the year that comes with a demand to stand up and be counted. Expressions of wish, vague ambitions to improve, just don’t cut it any more.

Being tucked away in the most reassuringly isolated corner of the planet has led us to be complacent. Again, this year is forcing us to wake up. It has been another year of huge fires, drought, crop failure, storm and flood; events that are now the norm and will continue to be so. The increasingly extreme international situation is similarly fueled by the fear of uncertainty and change among populations and politically by those who might benefit from proposed ‘solutions’; it is probably not coincidental that the current war concerns possession of a country that is one of the planet’s leading producers of food. We thought the pandemic would be the defining event of the decade. That may well no longer be the case.

And among these hurricanes of change we sit, a tiny wine producer, in a tiny place, yet dependent on exporting to over 40 markets around the world, including the one currently enduring invasion.

In our defense, we have always tried to do what we can. It is 20 years since we began organic farming, and throughout those two decades we have also sought to count our carbon and seriously consider ways to reduce it. Our biggest single carbon cost was glass. We have always eschewed heavy glass bottles and in 2015, we started using the newly developed 417 gram bottle - being 25% lighter than its already lightweight predecessor. (It is not uncommon to find premium wines using bottles that weigh 800 grams and I have even weighed a glass wine bottle that was 1200 grams – heavier than ours are when full!). In seven years, we have saved 120 tonnes of glass from being manufactured, trucked, shipped (those bottles are New Zealand manufactured from up to 70% recycled content) and recycled: a significant carbon emission saving. With 60% of our electricity generated onsite, an early start to switching to electric vehicles, and growing the bulk of our compost materials onsite we have made steady progress.  But events have required us to move beyond ideas such as ‘steady progress’.

Earlier this year, we were accepted as an applicant member of International Wineries for Climate Action. IWCA assists with our decarbonisation plan with sharing of knowledge and research specific to the wine industry, and applying direct solutions that prioritise actually removing consumption rather than the easy option of purchasing carbon offset credits. The first part of the process was undertaking an ISO certified carbon inventory audit, not just of our viticulture, winemaking and packaging, but the total carbon cost of running an international distribution operation; cradle to grave. If you come to visit us at the winery, we will be assessing the carbon cost of that visit and it gets added to our bill. From here, we must show progress in actively reducing emissions with set targets and the eventual aim of being carbon zero by 2050.  We won’t wait for 2050, or anything close to it: we’d like to see us at actual zero, without any offsets, within this decade. Is it possible? Well, we’re going to find out.

Already, we’ve learned uncomfortable facts. The audit has forced us to examine the freighting of our wines direct to customers. For complex reasons, airfreighting and ocean freight across the Tasman are very similarly priced, so the convenience of expedited delivery times favoured airfreighting. When we insisted that our freighting company utilise ocean freighters (which are surprisingly efficient due to their enormous capacity), we were relieved that they were ready to rise to the challenge, seeing this as an opportunity to lead other customers to better solutions. On careful analysis, we calculated that the carbon emission saving from eliminating airfreighting of our Australian direct shipments was a significant 12% of our total business emissions. While it may take considerably longer for delivery (particularly during supply chain issues!), we trust you agree that no one should be in a rush to consume our latest releases and a little patience with the delivery time, is not only beneficial for the wine, but results in significant carbon emission savings.

This is just one in a series of discoveries that are leading to a new model of how we will continue to thrive without disregarding the consequence of our actions. Does all this make the wine better? What we know for certain is that without fundamental action, its future is under existential threat. We hope you share our determination.



Blair Walter