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Agriculture Business

Community, environment focus for Yealand Wine Group

“We were extremely grateful to our staff for seeing the harvest through”

Michael Wentworth, General Manager Sustainability and Strategic Projects at Yealands Wines

Resilience is baked into the DNA of the team at Seaview Vineyard, the home of Yealands Wines, where grapes are grown in a wild and windswept landscape on the South Island’s north-eastern tip.

Marlborough’s earthquakes of 2013 and 2016 rattled the vines. Now there’s a global pandemic but it’s not proving too disruptive here.

In the Seddon vineyard, the focus on strong community partnerships and working with the environment remains as firm as ever. This is one of the most sustainable wineries in the world and has been Toitū carbonzero certified from its inception.

Last year’s COVID-19 national lockdown coincided with the vineyard’s annual harvest but the creation of a winery bubble – with staff living on site away from their families – ensured grapes were still able to be picked and processed.

“We were extremely grateful to our staff for seeing the harvest through,” says Michael Wentworth, General Manager Sustainability and Strategic Projects at Yealands Wines, who adds that contingency planning has been ramped up further in the interim to prepare for this year’s harvest.

While recruitment conditions are challenging, both the Marlborough Winegrowers Association and New Zealand Winegrowers have been working proactively with advertising to get more Kiwis involved with the 2021 harvest.
“There are a lot of new people on the vintage team who might not have wine industry experience but they are eager and willing to learn. It may lead to a career in the industry for some and that’s exciting for us too.”

A good growing season has produced fruit of exceptional quality. While volume is looking a little lower than last year, Michael says there are very good opportunities for New Zealand’s premium wine producers in offshore markets including the US, UK and Europe and Yealands is strongly positioned for growth.

New Zealand’s wine industry is generally proving adept in these uncertain times. The first ever Virtual NZ Wine Week took place in February. “We’re a resilient bunch. We do have logistical challenges, but the industry is in good heart and demand from offshore, in particular, is very strong.”

Yealands Wines employs up to 180 staff in Marlborough and is deeply committed to supporting both the local environment and the people in their community. Yealands Wines Marlborough Sustainability Initiative, now in its second year, is extending the sustainability focus well beyond the vineyard itself. The initiative is supporting not-for-profit community efforts to improve freshwater quality, preserve sensitive natural areas and uphold and protect local biodiversity.

“It’s inspiring to see how many organisations are out there doing real good. The beauty of this initiative is that it’s not just about awarding grants.

“In some instances, we also work alongside community groups through staff volunteer days to support projects such as wilding pine eradication. Our hope is to grow and develop long term relationships and connections from this.”

Yealands Wines ongoing focus on sustainability is evident in vineyard and winery. Visitors to the newly updated cellar door can see the fruits of this via an award-winning, self-guided tour along The White Road that winds through the vineyard to a lookout and into a large wetland area.

“We have identified 200 hectares of land that we’re going to restore with native vegetation and we’re now looking at how we can further evolve our visitor experience.”

A long track record of glowing wine reviews and awards is testament to the quality being achieved by this sustainability champion. Last year, Yealands Wine Group (Yealands) was awarded New Zealand’s only ‘Best in Show’ trophy for its 2019 Yealands Estate Single Block L5 Sauvignon Blanc at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

© Waterford Press Ltd 2021

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