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Sustainable Austria
(Courtesy of AWMB)

For many years, sustainability has played an important role in agriculture - and it is rapidly gaining significance in viticulture as well. Because of this, the Austrian Winegrowers Association has developed an online tool for measuring sustainable practices in the domestic wine sector. This allows Austrian vintners to make self-assessments and, in a further step, apply – as of Spring 2015 - for sustainability certification.

Certified wineries then would have the option to use the words "certified sustainable" together with the company registration number.

Sustainability as a necessity in domestic wine growing
Viticulture is a very intensive type of agriculture because of the pesticides and fertilizer, the outlay and expense of energy and water, and the transport as well. Moreover, viticulture reacts very sensitively to changes in weather conditions, like long periods of drought or rain - which are even underscored by the global climate change. With these, questions can be raised, such as: “How can viticulture be adapted to the changing climate? Or “How can sustainable viticulture produce high quality wine ecologically, socially and economically? What practices are necessary?”

Online tool for sustainable self-determination
To answer to such questions - and based on previous climate projects – the Austrian Wine Growers’ Association initiated the development of a certification system for sustainably produced wine – a system that winemakers can use for themselves. 

Together with experts and in several stages, quality objectives for a range of processes (production of grapes, production of wine, vineyards, social and economic) were defined and measures were developed for sustainable implementation. The results of the development, over several years, were presented for the first time at the National Viticulture Day in Austria on June 24th, 2014.

Personal responsibility as the basis for certification
In the online program, which is available to everyone, the vintners receive upon entering their key operating figures an analysis in the form of a diagram (see illustration on the right side). The entries in the operating areas (grape production, wine production, vineyards) are assessed automatically according to a specific key. This means that practices which make only a small contribution to sustainability get a lower value, whereas, for example, a change from heavy to lightweight glass for the bottles means a major step. When all items are filled in, the result comes in the form of a diagram. The black dot marks the current status in this category. The further out the dot lies, the more sustainable is the particular area. The red area shows distinct potential for improvement, while the green area reflects above-average sustainability. The system does not present concrete figures, 

but rather a relative reference. Ultimately, winemakers can see where they stand: how far they are from an optimally managed winery and what improvements can be made through various practices. 

For the evaluation of these practices in terms of their sustainability, the following criteria are used:

  • climate neutrality
  • use of water
  • use of energy
  • use of equipment
  • soil fertility
  • biodiversity
  • high quality standards
  • social aspects
  • economic return

Our sustainable working partners