Matt Pooley went looking for a sustainability ‘silver bullet’, but came back with a much better idea of how to do without one. And the key is a common approach and sense of purpose.
Photo by Chris Crerar
As the 2013 Wine Australia Nuffield Scholar, the viticulturist for Tasmania’s Pooley Wines spent a year examining sustainability programs in Australia, the United States (US) and New Zealand, assessing the value of environmental assurance to small wine producers, and identifying emerging technologies and practices Australia could and should embrace.
He was largely heartened by what he saw and heard. ‘There were some great things that we haven’t been doing here and can do here, but I also saw a lot of things, in the Napa Valley and in particular in Oregon, that we are doing here’, he said. ‘We are on par with many of their techniques and productivity beliefs.’
However, one note of caution is the risk that a lot of good work could be wasted and the impact of good practices diffused, if the sector tries to pursue sustainability in an unstructured way. Having too many systems running, he says, ‘just waters down our credibility’.
In his final report, Matt calls for Australian wine producers to consider adopting the national Entwine sustainability program, noting that such programs ‘are used widely and successfully across the globe and in many wine regions as they provide social, business, environmental and economic sustainability’.
He acknowledges that formal programs can seem daunting (particularly to small wineries) but says his year of research reinforced to him that success in sustainability comes down to attention to detail and staying flexible.
‘I admit I started out hoping I might find some kind of silver bullet overseas that would make the sustainability issue easier, but I quickly realised there can’t be one because the definition of sustainability keeps moving’, he said. ‘Once you achieve one target you move onto another. You are always monitoring and adjusting.’
Matt recently discussed new adjustments to Entwine with the Australian Wine Research Institute and believes these changes will be valuable in making the program more accessible and more valuable in a marketing sense.
What really impressed him during his time in the US, where he attended trade shows and conferences as well as visiting individual wineries, were the constant developments in technology that the wine sector could access.
‘A lot is being done in the area of wastewater management, for example. At a symposium in Sacramento, engineering companies were showcasing fantastic ideas on aeration and breaking down and settling out heavy organic matter from winery wastewater. That is a big stumbling block here, particularly for small wineries without a lot of spare cash. It would be great to see how we could adopt and adapt ideas like these.’
The Nuffield Scholarship is a prestigious $50,000 annual award from Wine Australia that allows the successful candidate to research a topic of importance to them personally and to their broader sector.
Just as importantly, it opens a lot of doors and networking opportunities. During his time in Washington, Matt found himself discussing key farming legislation with Republican Members of Congress and a range of issues with senior people from the Department of Agriculture.
Matt’s full report can be read here on the Nuffield International website.