The trend is for people to consume products that are sustainable and respect the environment, and wine is no exception. The conscious consumer wants to know where they can find a sustainable and ethically produced wine. Chile, the foremost exporter of wines in the New World, is well aware of this and has created a system to facilitate the search for premium wines that are also environmentally and socially responsible.
Chile has one of the world’s broadest programs for accrediting sustainability and 79 wineries have earned Wines of Chile Sustainability Code certification. Between them, these wineries account for 80% of the bottled wine exported from Chile. These bottles are easy to identify on any shelf around the world due to the distinct “Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile” seal they display. This sustainability code has been earned by all types and sizes of Chilean wineries from small-scale producers to large national cooperatives.
The Wines of Chile Sustainability Code was first launched in 2010 and, in the course of just one decade, Chile has succeeded in gaining sustainability and corporate social responsibility certification for more than 80% of its wine exports. Few other countries have a sustainability code to guarantee the responsible production of their wines.
First of all, it demonstrates that the winery has been assessed and certified by independent judges, who have verified its compliance with the various standards in the country’s Sustainability Code. These standards are divided into areas that include agricultural practices, work in the winery – including bottling and packaging -, and corporate social responsibility with regard to workers and neighboring communities.
In the vineyard, the certification covers sustainable soil management, pest and weed control, use of fertilizers and other chemical products, and the responsible consumption of water, among other principles.
In terms of sustainable practices in the winery, the code examines the winery’s efforts in waste reduction and recycling, energy use, industrial water management, preventing contamination and reducing emissions and waste. It even takes into consideration the winery’s air conditioning system as it also contributes to its overall environmental impact.
The single biggest sustainability issue in Chile today is undoubtedly the lack of water and its efficient use because of the prolonged drought the country has been suffering for many years. For this reason, Chile’s sustainability program has been working to improve irrigation practices by using meteorological information and technology in the field to increase water efficiency. Almost all Chilean vineyards now have technified irrigation systems, especially drip irrigation which is the most efficient. They are also investing in water infrastructure, such as wells and reservoirs, and developing greywater projects so that industrial water can be reused for irrigation, for example.
Each winery has a plan for optimizing the use of electricity and fuel, with clear and verifiable targets for both the winery and the vineyards. They are assessed on how efficiently they manage heating, ventilation and cooling, in order to reduce energy consumption in the facilities.
Regarding energy, the wineries have modified their lighting policies and installed LED and photovoltaic lighting and motion sensors in their warehouses and wine cellars. Another example is that the new bottling lines use high-efficiency vapor-generating systems, which replace the need for fossil fuels, and a heat recovery system.
The main focus in recent years has been to get Chilean vineyards to use renewable energy. Many wineries already produce electricity through photovoltaic plants. Each of them is setting targets and deadlines to supply their wineries, vineyard irrigation systems and offices with solar energy as soon as possible.
Chile’s sustainability program launched a new carbon footprint project to establish carbon reduction objectives with a scientific basis to help fight climate change. A significant number of Wines of Chile wineries, representing more than 60% of Chilean bottled wine exports, have teamed together in an industry-wide carbon footprint measurement initiative aligned with the objectives of the Science-Based Targets Organization. These wineries aim to make an impact using technical and scientific information from Science-Based Targets.
Chile’s wineries are already taking measures to counteract the effects of climate change, which include a dramatic reduction in the acidity of wines. They are beginning to evaluate different sustainable development plans that include actions like setting up vineyards at other latitudes, planting varieties that were difficult to ripen in the past but might now safeguard the typicity of certain wines.