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In early February, industry-leading sustainability professionals from around the world met in Verona, Italy for the Sustainable Winegrowing Summit (SWS).

Believed to be the first of its kind, the Summit attracted an international audience of more than 100 attendees eager to learn about state-of-the-art sustainable winegrowing programs and low environmental impact grape production.

James Hook – McLaren Vale vigneron and agronomist, was a guest speaker representing McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association in a moderated discussion about the region’s Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) program, which is now operating throughout major wine grape growing region’s in Australia, including the Barossa.

Speakers joining Hook on the panel included Olga Bussinello (Consorzio per la Tutela dei Vini Valpolicella), Beth Vukmanic Lopez (SIP certified), Willi Klinger (Austrian Wine Marketing Board), Steve Lohr (California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance) and Stephanie L. Bolton (Lodi Sustainable Winegrowing Commission).

 

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“Today, 114 companies cover a total of 915 hectares (in Valpolicella), but our goal is to obtain the certification of 60% of the entire area through our RRR sustainability program”

 

Hook commended key organiser, the International Sustainable Winegrowing Network for providing an international platform for important and timely information sharing.

“There is a great need to share our knowledge. Some of our own local issues and solutions, especially regarding heatwaves – made more common by climate change and irrigation issues – are extremely useful to regions like Valpolicella, which are now facing heatwaves and water shortages for the first time,” he said.

“The level we need to think about sustainability is global, because we are all part of the same global system.”

The McLaren Vale-born SAW Program provided an exceptional case study as the leading sustainability program for grapegrowing in Australia, for which director of the Valpolicella Wine Board, Olga Bussinello, said she was grateful for.

“Today, 114 companies cover a total of 915 hectares (in Valpolicella), but our goal is to obtain the certification of 60% of the entire area through our RRR sustainability program.

“We will therefore be continuing to work with other regions to see if common approaches can be found,” she said.

The Program was initially developed by local McLaren Vale growers in 2010 with funding support from the South Australian State Government and aims to assist grape growers to continually improve their operations by becoming more sustainable and reducing environmental impacts.

The Program is based on triple bottom-line methods of sustainability: environment, social and economic.

It encourages grapegrowing practices that are sensitive to the environment and the
community, and that are economically feasible to implement and maintain.

In the 2016/17 growing season, the SAW program was implemented across 206 distinct sites in McLaren Vale, representing 65% of McLaren Vale’s total crush (worth $45.5m of the $70m total).

The Summit will become an annual event, hosted in a different international location each year.

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