Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) is proud to announce that their industry Environmental Sustainability Scheme is now underway. Recognising the industry’s shared responsibility to minimise its impact on the environment and maximise its contribution to conservation and biodiversity, the Scheme, Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB), will soon be announcing the first vineyards and wineries to have gone through the formal accreditation process and bear the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Certification Mark.
30 Founder Member wine producers* signed up to the Scheme at launch, encompassing different sizes of operation, including both leading brands and boutique operations. Between them, this already represents some 40% of the total hectarage under vine in the UK, with a production capability of around 6.8m bottles. The introduction of the Scheme comes at a pivotal moment for Great Britain’s wine industry, with viticulture now one of the UK’s fastest-growing agricultural sectors and WineGB predicting a significant increase in wine production over the coming two decades.
The key objectives of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain are:
• Protect our soils, conserve our environment, and promote biodiversity in our vineyards
• Manage our vineyards sustainably, with minimal pesticide and fertiliser inputs
• Use water wisely, and protect our watercourses from contamination
• Minimise our energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint, both in the vineyard and the winery
• Be economically viable in the long term
• Grow outstanding grapes and produce excellent wine for our customers
A dedicated industry working group is behind the development and implementation of SWGB. Chaired by Chris Foss, former Manager of Plumpton College Wine Division, the group comprises grape growers and winemakers, together with key suppliers to the industry and retailers Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. The Scheme has also attracted generous sponsorship from external suppliers and supporters to enable its implementation.
The Scheme’s sustainability objectives are promoted through guidelines, which set best practice, minimum standards, and prohibited practices in both the vineyard and winery. As it develops, the Scheme will set new guidelines and standards annually, creating a culture of continuous improvement.
SWGB has already developed a carbon calculating tool unique to the GB wine industry, providing a first step for vinegrowers and winemakers who want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, through enabling them to calculate their carbon footprint in the vineyard and winery. This advanced new tool has been hailed by independent experts as ‘highly innovative in supporting the sustainable aims of the UK wine industry’.
Sustainable credentials are an increasing driver to consumer purchase decisions. Other, competing, wine producing regions, such as New Zealand, Oregon and Champagne already have their own sustainability schemes, and routes to market will increasingly require producers to demonstrate environmentally sustainable values. WineGB will be highlighting its own shared values through its website, a series of blogs, and its messaging on social media, including regular weekly posts using the hashtag #SustainabilitySunday.
“Great Britain is a wine producing region that is growing exponentially, and we recognise that the industry has a responsibility to our environment, from vineyard to the end product,” comments Simon Robinson, Chairman of WineGB. “Our vision is that sustainability lies at the very heart of the wine industry of Great Britain,” he adds.
SWGB Chair Chris Foss says: “Whilst we are just at the beginning of this process, we are making a promise to the future, as custodians of the land and its precious resources. Through working with key members of our industry, plus retail giants and suppliers, we are developing something meaningful and lasting.”
He adds: “Our key ambition is to get most, if not all, of the UK vineyards and wine producers signed up to the Scheme, so that the industry as a whole will be perceived to be more sustainable by government, trade and consumers. When you see the SWGB Certification Mark on a bottle of wine, you can be assured that the producer is striving for environmental sustainability by implementing the Sustainable WineGB Scheme Guidelines.”
Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are leading retailers for whom sustainability is a core part of their business. Both have fully supported the wine industry’s Scheme since the beginning and indeed sit on the Scheme working group. The first Scheme-accredited wines will be available to consumers next year, and both companies are committed to stocking and supporting them.
The accreditation process, now underway, entails an online self-evaluation form, to be completed and updated annually, to monitor progress against the guidelines. Upon joining, then every three years, each self-evaluation score will be checked and verified by independent auditors. The appointed independent auditors of the Scheme are environmental consultancy Ricardo PLC. Participants will also be asked to share data anonymously each year for internal benchmarking. Successful applicants will be able to use the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Certification Mark to promote their credentials and will benefit from extensive marketing and promotion of the Scheme.
The first accredited vineyards and wineries will be announced shortly.
*The founder members from the industry are:
Bee Tree Vineyard
Bolney Wine Estate
Chilworth Manor Vineyard
Clayton Hills Vineyards
Defined Wine Ltd
Denbies Wine Estate
Easing Hill Vineyard
Exton Park vineyard
Grange Estate Wines
Hattingley Valley Wines
High Clandon Estate
Hush Heath Estate
Preston Wine Partnership
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Three Choirs Vineyards
Venn Valley Vineyard
West Fisher Winery
Yotes Court Vineyard