Family owned Clare Valley winery, Taylors Wines, has always held sustainability close to its heart.
Priding themselves on best practice in environmental management for over 40 years, it’s no wonder that Taylors was the first winery in the world to have one of its lines certified as being 100 percent carbon neutral.
While the Eighty Acres range has taken a while to gain traction in Australia, the uptake within Europe, particularly Sweden of late, has been something to take note of.
“It has become one of those overnight sensations that has taken around five years to create,” Neil Hadley, Master of Wine and export manager at Taylors told Food magazine.
According to Hadley, Taylors decided to embrace the idea of creating a 100 percent carbon neutral wine using the international standard ISO 14440 around six years ago. Although Taylors at that stage already employed a number of environmentally-friendlyprocesses throughout the business, Hadley says that the intensive certification process opened up the eyes of the entire Taylors team to the full extent of their environmental footprint.
“We learnt a lot about our own environment and environmental footprint throughout the whole process, and of course it also left us with wines to sell,” says Hadley. “I then began a process, in my job as export manager, of talking to people around the world about these wines and initially, there weren’t any real takers. What happened though about three years ago, was that a general tender was put out by the Swedish (government owned retailer) Systembolaget for a chardonnay, and I tendered with the Eighty Acres carbon neutral chardonnay, and we happened to win.”
Hadley explained that in both Scandinavia and Canada, the sale of alcohol is controlled by government owned monopolies such as Systembolaget, making entry into those markets highly challenging. However once they won the tender and commenced supplying Systembolaget, the Eighty Acres range proved to be a tremendous success.
“The tender was for a limited volume of 800 cases which is what we call an in and out tender, where we just drop the stock into the stores and the amount of time that it takes to sell was the amount of time that it is in the stores – and it flew out of the doors. It literally sold out in eight weeks flat.
“So on the back of that, I was able to go back to the monopoly (Systembolaget), sit down with their category managers and point out to them that the consumers had very much voted with their feet, and that they should look seriously at the idea of a tender process for a carbon neutral wine specifically. And they listened, they took that on-board and eventually launched a tender which in fact we and Chateau Tahbilk (a fellow SA winery) were lucky enough to be the winners of. And now, they (Systembolaget) have placed their third and fourth order, and I believe we have our fifth order in preparation for Sweden for next month.”
Hadley says that Taylors always believed that Scandinavian consumers were engaged and interested in ethical production, but it wasn’t until the winery decided to conduct research in conjunction with wine research company, Wine Intelligence that its suspicions were confirmed.
The research found that wine consumers in Sweden had around a 30 percent propensity to purchase products with ethical credentials.
In contrast to Scandinavian wine drinkers, Hadley says that Australians appear to be less driven by ethical decisions at the point of purchase, however recent research is indicating that a change could be on the way due to a “growing awareness” of ethical considerations.
“Interestingly enough on the back of what we are seeing in Sweden, we are beginning to conduct research which suggests that there is a growing awareness of the needs for these sorts of ethical considerations [in Australia]…”
“Obviously at the end of the day the wine has to look good and taste good and be priced right, so with those sorts of considerations, consumers do tend to revert to type when it comes to sticking their hands in their pocket and actually purchasing. But from our point of view, all of those boxes have been nicely ticked and the carbon neutral aspect seems to really be giving the range the extra mile so to speak.”
As you may imagine, the processes involved in obtaining an internationally recognised certification such as ISO 14044 is no easy feat. To gain carbon neutral status, Taylors measured everything from the inputs in the vineyard, all the way through to the grape growing, picking, winemaking and bottling, (including the carbon footprint of the glass, and therefore the glass furnaces used to melt the glass) all the way to the shipping and electricity used in a retail store and the energy needed to recycle the glass after consumption. According to Hadley, the process took about a year to complete.
“It’s not something that you attempt to do on your own,” Hadley told Food magazine. “We worked with what is now part of the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI) to go through the international standards organisations process of measuring our carbon footprint, and we took a cradle to grave sort of approach rather than just measuring the vineyard or measuring the shipping.”
Hadley explains that after the certification was achieved and independently audited by Melbourne University RMIT, the winery embarked on two processes: the reduction and the mitigation of the carbon footprint by addressing certain processes within the winery. This included moving to lighter-weight glass bottles, which reduced the carbon footprint of the glass by 15 percent, and insulation initiatives in the cellars which enabled the winery to more effectively control temperature.
“Those sorts of initiatives all impact on reducing our total environmental footprint. We are then left with a residual carbon footprint, and purchase carbon credits – verified emission reduction units that are audited by the federal government. So that’s the whole process.”
In regards to the initial inspiration for the Eighty Acres line, Hadley says that it was somewhat of a natural progression considering the winery’s strong commitment to environmentally sound production practices.
“Taylors is quite an interesting company because they have been actively involved in processes like recycling all of the water from the winery, mulching and engaging in activities in the vineyard, and the winery on an environmental basis.
“In the case of the carbon neutral project, I distinctly remember sitting around in a meeting with the family and the rest of the executives and we were talking about what was very much in the news at the time, and a general comment was well, ‘it looks like this thing (global warming) is going to happen and that the world is going to have to look at climate change and is going to have to look at addressing these sorts of things. Why don’t we figure it out before we are told to go and do it by law or by government or by customers? Why don’t we actually get ahead of that, and figure it out, and do it off our own backs?’ And that is exactly what we did.
“It was a business decision about looking to the future and also one that fitted well into the family’s desire to do no harm in terms of environmental impact.”