The winemaking carbon footprint can loom quite large but many wineries are now making the conscious move towards sustainability and making sure that the footprint they leave is one that will help keep the planet beautiful for generations to come.
Sustainable winemaking involves:
- Changing from power usage to solar power, thereby cutting energy consumption.
- Reusing and recycling all water and making their own compost as fertilizer.
- Practicing Integrated Pest Management: Using owls, bats, hawks or other wildlife, as well as cover crops to help control insects.
- Also using weed control | border management by goats or sheep to cultivate the vineyards instead of traditional chemical pesticides and herbicides.
- Using low-gravity flow techniques to move wine steadily downward through the winemaking process, decreasing the use of energy consuming conveyor belts and equipment in the process.
- Recycling all materials used in the winemaking process.
- Erecting or modifying buildings to make them energy efficient.
- Using biofuel or alternately powered farming equipment; preferably using horsepower instead of tractors when workable.
- Ensuring that workers, employees are fairly treated.
Vermilion Valley Vineyards is one of the few identified sustainable wineries in North East Ohio that uses recycled materials, solar energy and storm-water management (large tanks collect storm-water for reuse in the vineyard). Located in Wakeman, OH about 45 minutes west of Cleveland, Vermilion Valley Vineyards is situated beside a fully restored wetland that is home to natural residents like Bluegills and Large Mouth Bass, and naturally occurring, native plant life. The wetland also serves to provide the winery a viable heat source in winter, and acts as an area to release heat overloads during high summer. The heating | cooling systems are ‘ground sourced’ HVAC using the wetlands. Their vineyard building has 40-plus “R” insulation for its walls and roof; saving energy that would normally have to be produced by burning fossil fuels.
Vermilion Valley Vineyards’ philosophy is one of holistic agriculture: viewing the entire farm as a living organism. They work to build soil fertility by using composted grape skins, stems and seeds.What comes out of the earth, eventually goes back in.
Crop rotation, companion planting and cultivation is the main source of natural pest and disease management. In cases where it doesn’t work, they employ Integrated Pest Management ~ where some conventional but less toxic pesticides are permitted ~ but it is used only sparingly and never where non-chemical interventions have been shown to be most effective. They have maintained a commitment to find new certified organic fungicides that will precisely target problematic organisms.
To further educate the public about the importance of sustainable farming practices, they created the Green Lit Scholarship Fund. The fund rewards select graduating high school students wishing to pursue a career in sustainable winemaking | farming, as well as those majoring in a related field (forestry, agriculture and architecture) and is awarded annually. The winery hosts several fund raising events during the year to provide support.
While it can seem like a daunting proposition to completely revamp a winery’s operating practices to incorporate sustainable winemaking, it can be done. And it can be a work in progress. But the commitments to the environment that are made now will ensure a better world that we leave for our children to enjoy.
And that’s worth toasting.