Funding from the Shire of Augusta Margaret River and City of Busselton has helped to establish a new program looking at the sustainability of the Margaret River region wine industry.
Led by respected viticulture and winemaking specialist Eloise Jarvis and the Margaret River Wine Association (MRWA), the region-wide Sustainability Project aims to assist wine grape growers and wineries improve their sustainability credentials across, not just environmental, but also social, and economic aspects of their business.
Ms Jarvis told the Mail there was a need to research and measure the current sustainability of grape growing and winemaking industries around the country to adequately meet the demands of international buyers.
"We're here to measure and monitor and be a certified program under which people can show their sustainability credentials.
She is currently working with growers and wineries to see them gain membership and certification with the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program.
"Climate change, global warming, and the need to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should be the driving force to motivate us to act now.
"If that's not enough to convince us to take action then scrutiny from international markets, such as the Systembolaget (Sweden), Tesco and Walmart should. All demand transparency and accountability within supply chains, from grape to bottle to waste in relation to sustainability stewardship when tendering.
The wine industry must have authenticity and transparency on sustainability...Eloise Jarvis
"The European Parliament has supported a motion for a carbon border tax that will affect Australian exports to Europe; GHG emissions will need to be "accounted for on the basis of transparent, reliable and up-to-date...benchmarks... covering both direct and indirect emissions".
"Influential wine reviewers, such as JancisRobinson.com, have started noting the weight of wine bottles, particularly heavy or light bottles, to respectively condemn or praise those producers who had chosen them.
"The industry must have authenticity and transparency on sustainability to attract and reach the younger generation of wine consumers, Millennials and Gen Z, otherwise we will be left behind."
Ms Jarvis said while every wine business was different, there were steps that both large and small producers could take to increase their sustainability, and improve their business.
"It's whole of business, and covers not only the practice of viticulture and not only in the winery but every facet of your business, from your human resources, your economics and your environmental resources. Within that platform, you can be audited and from there, you set your own sustainability goals as to what you can achieve."
Ms Jarvis brings her UWA degree in horticulture/viticulture, University of Adelaide post-grad diploma in oenology, 8 years as winemaking lecturer at Curtin University of Technology and 20 years of winemaking and consulting to the program.
"We need to understand where we are at as a region and how we compare nationally and globally."
Over 65 growers and winemakers joined the MRWA for the first Sustainability Sundowners at Evans & Tate on 19 May to launch the program, with another workshop held with Dr Mardi Longbottom from the Australian Wine Research Institute this week. For more info on the program, visit margaretriver.wine