Sustainable wines offer hope for the environment

Working horses in the Odfjell vineyards.

Working horses in the Odfjell vineyards. - Credit: Odfjell Wines

Sustainability is a keyword in the wine industry and many producers are focusing on the quality of their grapes in tandem with care for their land and environment.

The common goal of all users is land management that cares for the planet in a way that secures it for future generations. The use of the term terroir, which includes the effect of the soil, climate, flora and fauna and local winemaking traditions, emphasises the close relationship of wine and the environment.

As a result, producers around the world are practising careful vine growing methods including water recycling, organic and biodynamic farming, and minimising their carbon footprint as much as possible by employing local workers in the vineyard and winery.

One great example of sustainable agriculture is Odfjell winery in Chile that was founded by Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian whose travels took him to Chile in 1982 when he discovered the Maipo Valley in the Central Valley, south of Santiago.

He bought a fruit farm there and achieved a long-held ambition to be a farmer and in 1988 released the first vintage of Odfjell Wines. The wines are predominantly red and are very poised and elegant.

Sustainability has always been a core value at Odfjell, and progressive vineyard management has meant they have been 100% certified organic vineyards and biodynamic for many years.

Today they have 85 hectares of vineyards in the Maipo, Cauquenes and Curico with mainly red vines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Syrah, Cabernet, and acquired some very old vineyards of Carignan and Malbec.

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All the fruit is handpicked, and yields are very low with organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking to ensure they protect the land using cover crops to prevent weed growth and eliminate the need to use pesticides.

There also beehives in all the vineyards and Norwegian fjord horses, one of the oldest and purest breeds in Norway, are bred here. They are a small hardy breed that are used instead of tractors at Odfjell’s vineyards.

Workers are sought locally: more than 80 per cent of employees live around the winery with comfortable onsite housing offered to employees and their families.

Odfjell have a unique gravity flow winery which was designed by Laurence Odfjell, the son of the vineyard’s founder, which allows for gentle handling of the grapes and facilitates the creation of fine wines.

The winery is carved into the hillside above the vineyards and 60% of the winery is underground so it is naturally cool and gravity flow reduces the need for the wine to be pumped around thus preserving the subtle flavours of the wine while at the same reducing energy use.

The focus on sustainability and the obvious quality and character of the Odfjell wines shows that it is possible to combine the two key areas. The white Sauvignon Blancs are aromatic, fresh, and intense and the strongly varietal unoaked vibrant red Carignans and Carmeneres etc have dark fruit aromas, hints of spice and licorice, black pepper and cherries.

The world is becoming more aware of the need to protect our planet and how we must take action in our
lifetime instead of leaving it to future generations as that will be too late. Wine producers play a pro-active role in achieving this.