Founded in 2008, Yealands Wines was guided from day one by the philosophy that great wine can only be created in partnership with nature and has always aimed to become one of the world’s most sustainable wine producers.
Nestled in the Awatere Valley, the southernmost, coolest, and driest of Marlborough’s wine-growing regions, the winery’s proximity to the coastline and strong offshore winds impart a distinctive mineral and fresh herb character to its produce. A patchwork of microclimates, whilst resulting in lower-yielding vines, allows Yealands to treat each block according to its own unique characteristics, giving the winemaking team a vast array of flavours with which to experiment when it comes to blending.
For almost twelve years now, Yealands has remained steadfast in its commitment to its sustainable philosophy. The company recently made headlines by announcing its intentions to lower its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2045, and 50 percent by 2030 – dramatic goals which speak volumes about the seriousness of Yealands’ approach.
“Eighty percent is pretty scary, particularly when we are starting from a pretty efficient starting point,” said Michael Wentworth, general manager of external relations and sustainability at Yealands. “We have reduced our emission intensity by close to 20 percent since 2012, but we still have a long way to go.” By primarily focusing on three key areas – emissions from diesel burn, energy used in the winery, and emissions from shipping wine to market – Yealands has been able to develop a plan to help implement the 25-year goal it has set for itself. Increasingly, the company is seeking to bottle more of its wine in market, closer to the customer, reducing the amount of transport emissions through shipping more wine and less packaging.
Similarly, Yealands is looking to increase the use of biofuel within the winery, currently burning approximately ten percent of its vine prunings in purpose-built boilers which provide all the hot water heating needed on-site.
Thankfully, sustainability is at Yealands’ core from inception thanks to founder Peter Yealands’ green vision for the company. The first and only Toitu Carbonzero-certified winery since inception, Yealands already has plenty of infrastructure in place to render its goals achievable.
“In terms of the more distant future, we are fortunate to have strong relationships with both Massey and Lincoln Universities, who are doing exciting research into new technology and initiatives which have the potential to have a marked impact on reducing our emissions,” said Wentworth. The objective was announced as Yealands joined International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), a collective group committed to tackling the severity of the climate crisis by creating climate leadership in the wine industry. Whilst still in its infancy, the organisation’s emphasis on collaboration and accountability, and its efforts to develop a universal system of measuring and reporting sustainability levels for wineries, will surely be of increasing utility as the industry moves towards a greener future.
By and large, New Zealand’s wine industry is very much at the forefront of global sustainable production, with its Sustainable Winegrowers programme incorporating 98 percent of the country’s vineyards, and Wentworth and the rest of his team at Yealands are optimistic that the country can continue to lead the way.
“The very nature of sustainability means that there is always going to be room for improvement, and with growing consumer awareness, everyone is going to come under increasing scrutiny,” he said. “As an industry, we have to continue to adapt and work collaboratively, whether it be through Sustainable Winegrowers, IWCA, or other like-minded groups. Working together will ultimately mean we can achieve more.”