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Green light for De Bortoli suppliers
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De Bortoli operations manager Rob Glastonbury admits he was taken aback when 195 out of some 200 suppliers in the Riverina responded to a recent trial survey of growers’ environmental management.
It wasn’t just the response rate that surprised him but also the responses.
“It surprised me because I found the answers I got showed a growing awareness of environmental issues within vineyards. People are a lot more aware than I expected.”
While Rob says the survey has no real statistical validity – he says the trial survey was “a bit rough” – he believes it shows the local wine industry is prepared to meet the environmental sustainability challenge.
That in turn will enable the Australian wine industry to meet increasingly stringent environmental credibility standards in more discerning markets such as the UK.
De Bortoli discussed the survey with growers at its annual pre-vintage growers breakfast, and included its as an insert in its spray diary.
While the spray diary requires growers to record a range of factors to ensure their grapes do not exceed maximum residue levels, the insert had a much wider environmental focus.
Growers were questioned on their vineyard management, including planning, monitoring of soil moisture, management of inter-rows, awareness of native biodiversity and environmental risk assessment.
Rob says growers’ responses showed a high awareness of the issues and a commitment to tackling them.
The Riverina survey was carried out as part of the Australian Wine Industry Stewardship program, an initiative of the Wine Federation of Australia.
De Bortoli worked on the project in association with the other three big Riverina companies – Casella, Orlando and McWilliams – along with the Riverina Wine Growers Association.
“We all had input and there was fairly strong consensus about what we were trying to achieve,” Rob said.
In the past five years, De Bortoli has adopted a cleaner production program in both the wineries and vineyards. It has developed waste water minimisation and treatment systems at its Bilbul and Yarra Valley sites.
Other initiatives include adopting an integrated pest management system in the vineyard minimising the use of chemical sprays, composting winery skins and stalks, and removing all sodium based products from the Bilbul site because of concerns about salinity in the environment.
Rob says De Bortoli has spent close to $4 million on environmental initiatives this year out of a total capital works program of $16 million.
“We thought now that we’ve jumped in the deep end, let’s make sure our suppliers come down the track of compliance.”