Sustainably Made Wines are mainly about the Vineyard practices. There are 3 areas to this Sustainability:
Of the three the focus of the following paragraphs is the environmental impact. The main aim is to promote the health of the soils for the future use of the land and, in the case of Vineyards, for the benefit of the end product (delicious wine). This is done by encouraging the natural ecosystems, maintaining biodiversity, managing waste products and by reducing applications of chemicals as well as reigning in the use of resources including energy.
This requires the viticulturalists to have and maintain an understanding of the lifecycle of the vine and of vineyard pests like birds and insects. They need to monitor weather patterns and forecasts in order to prevent diseases like mildew which is often brought on by humidity and moisture. Awareness of the prediected weather means that the timing of the, occasionally essential, application of chemicals can have a more efficient impact.
Pest Management is another key factor in Sustainability. Pests include insects, fungi, mammals and birds. Happily there are institutions on hand armed with the specific information which supports Viticulturalists. This helps them to understand when to look for each pest. Knowing what signs are representative of the specific pest and being able to calculate, in the case of insects and fungi, products and dosage should treatments become necessary is beneficial econimically and environmentally.
The Vineyard managers and trained workers regularly monitor their vines and will try to only intervene when the amount of damage done might exceed the cost of intervening. However, a better way is to know the signs and to help the vine to protect itself. Overuse of chemicals can make the vineyard reliant on the chemicals as well as making the insects or weeds resistant over time.
Sustainable Viticulture is, however not a protected term and does not have a clear set of standards. New Zealand's scheme, for example, is praised for helping reduce the quantity of pesticides used but they have also been criticised for setting too low a standard for certification and virtually all commercial grape growers are now part of it.
Gaining Sustainability Certification for your land is definitely a step in the right direction. Greater understanding of the damage done by chemicals is helping to persuade farmers to alter their land management which can only boost the quality of the food on your plate and the wine in your glass.