As a founding member of the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain, Gusbourne now proudly carries the SWGB mark – an accreditation that’s only carried on wines made from fruit grown in vineyards and made in wineries that meet exacting guidelines for sustainable practices.
Of the more than 500 commercial vineyards and 160 wineries in England and Wales, only 14 have been certified under the SWGB scheme, putting Gusbourne in very esteemed company.
Objectives of the SWGB scheme for sustainable vineyard management include:
- maintaining and improving soil health
- reducing and optimising pesticide use
- promoting biodiversity
- reducing energy input, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint per hectare
And these are some of the sustainability initiatives in practice at Gusbourne:
- planting wildflower blocks near vineyards to encourage biodiversity
- using natural organic fertilisers such as seaweed and composts
- experimenting for accelerated learning and knowledge-sharing
Gusbourne’s Chief Vineyard Manager, Jon Pollard, led the initiative and says that even before the official accreditation was awarded, he felt confident that “we were doing all of these things already. It was a case of rigorously measuring and documenting them, bringing records together and writing assessments of what we were doing and planning to do in the future.”
Along with consolidating data and processes for a team of external auditors, SWGB certification requires wineries to measure their carbon footprint using a specially developed farm carbon calculating tool. The calculator takes into account everything from the impact of the vines, trees and hedgerows to the carbon footprint locked into the machinery used in the vineyard and materials used in the winery.
Not one to rest on his precisely calculated laurels, Jon is conscious that being accredited is not a one-time event. “In three years we’ll get audited again, by which time standards may have changed to push everyone towards a greater level of sustainability. I know there are things we can improve on and the great thing about recording what we do in this way is that it always puts sustainability and new targets at the front of our minds.”
That mindset is already trickling into other parts of Gusbourne. “Being part of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain is very much tied to the inputs of the vineyards and the winery,” says Jon. “But looking at the business as a whole is something we’re concentrating on more – how do we build sustainability into more aspects our business. If we can get the vineyards and the winery sorted, then we can certainly look at supply streams and bring other aspects of the way we and our partners work into line as well.”
In the meantime, Jon Pollard believes the mark will be a powerful symbol for consumers not just in the UK but across the world. With big issues like climate change very much on people’s minds, he says that the rigour and transparency of the SWGB accreditation scheme makes it “easy to make good choices”.
“People are very savvy and switched on to environmental and sustainability issues. They want to do the right thing and know that they’re investing in something that’s been produced with as little damage to the environment as possible. I think it’s a very strong and important message.”
About Wines of Great Britain (WineGB)
Established over 50 years ago as the United Kingdom Vineyards Association, WineGB has been the national body for grape growers and winemakers in England and Wales since 2017. The SWGB sustainability scheme joins other sustainable and organic winemaking associations around the world, including France’s SudVinBio, California’s Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Italy’s Viticolturasostenibile and The Australian Wine Research Institute’s Sustainable Winegrowing Australia programme.
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