The concept of ‘sustainability’ has become a pressing part of our daily lives and businesses in recent years as the impact of our lack of care for our planet’s resources continues to be thrown into stark relief – not least by the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPPC’s latest survey of the science behind climate change hit the headlines earlier this month when it revealed that the time for taking action to tackle climate change is nearly gone. According to the report, our current plan to reduce emissions will not be enough to prevent temperatures from rising above 2°C, at which point coastal flooding will increase, huge swathes of plant and animal species will be lost, and human lives and livelihoods imperilled.
One of the key reasons behind this warming is our failure to keep our desire for consumption in check. The simple equation is that taking more from a resource than it is able to renew is unsustainable, so in the end that resource will run out. The knock-on effect from this in terms of planetary ecosystems is that, because they are all connected, if one part gets out of sync it has a detrimental effect on all the others.
One solution is the idea of sustainability, defined as the integration of environmental health, social equity and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for this and future generations. The practice of sustainability recognises that systems are interconnected and presumes that resources are finite, encouraging us to use them wisely to protect them – and us – from the long-term consequences of over-use.
So what’s this got to do with making wine?
“Everything that we need for our survival and wellbeing depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment”, says Chris Foss, Chair of Sustainable Wine Great Britain – the sustainability scheme run by WineGB, the national body for grape growers and winemakers which is on a mission to establish Great Britain as a sustainable wine region of world renown.
“WineGB members want to work with, and not against nature, and develop a wine production industry that is not only economically viable and maintains the highest level of grape and wine quality, but implements vine growing and winemaking practices that are sustainable in the long term.”
The aim of the Sustainable Wine Great Britain scheme – which launched in 2019 – is to support grape growers and commercial winemakers to produce sustainable wine. It also encourages them to attain accredited sustainability certification for their vineyards, wineries and wines by following the scheme’s sustainability guidelines and successfully completing an independent audit every three years. The first SWGB audits took place in June 2020 with the first SWGB-Certified wines released for sale in Spring 2021 – and while not compulsory for the nation’s winemakers, WineGB is keen for as many to get on board as possible, in a bid to “minimise the industry’s impact on the environment” and maximise its “contribution to environmental conservation and biodiversity”.
Based as we are on the beautiful Devon-Dorset border, here at Lyme Bay Winery we definitely feel an affiliation with our local environment and the ecosystems that surround us. To that end, we have made it our mission to embed sustainability across our entire business, from the Winery to the office, as well as in our external contracts with the growers and premium vineyards we work with across the country.
One of our longest-running partnerships is with Watchcombe Vineyard, just down the road from us here in Axe Valley. Watchcombe provides us with the cooler climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Bacchus and Seyval Blanc, and has long been doing its bit to take care of the land on which it sits.
“Although the vineyard can’t officially claim to be organic, it has not been sprayed with pesticides or received any other interventions since long before I took it over in February 2018”, says vineyard manager Meg Power, “thanks in part to the natural disease-resistant qualities of the varieties.”
A more recent ‘green’ development is the addition of a shepherd’s hut tucked away in a corner of the vineyard, entirely off-grid using solar power, harvested water and a composting loo, which Meg says will make spending time at work in the vineyard “much more comfortable, especially as I don’t live locally”.
The long view
At another of our growers – Sandhurst Vineyard over in Kent – Alex Nicholas employs a whole host of sustainable practices to keep the family-run farm up to spec.
“We keep a vineyard diary to record every job from pruning to picking, and take soil samples every three years in order to create a nutrition plan to try and optimise soil and vine health”, says Alex. “Our prunings are always mulched up to break down in the rows, and we are aiming to move to electric tractors one day, fingers crossed”.
As for us, we are continuing to broaden our environmentally conscious remit.
“We are working with a sustainability consultant to plan our ongoing sustainability path”, says Paul Sullivan, Lyme Bay’s head of sales and marketing, “with some upcoming changes in the pipeline for our on-site recycling as well as more environmentally friendly closures for bottles.”
Stop by and stock up
Obviously, the most sustainable way for you to buy your drinks from us would be to walk or cycle over to our wonderful Cellar Door, which is open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, and on Sunday from 11 am until 3 pm. However, we know that not all our customers live that close, so you can of course also order drinks from us via our website, as well as by email or phone.
Get in touch with our friendly team here at the Winery via email at email@example.com or call us on 01297 551355, and if you order by 2 pm we aim to deliver within the next two working days.