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Sustainability accreditation in the works for UK wine

Published:  26 April, 2019

A new sustainability and climate change mitigation scheme for the UK wine industry could be complete by the end of the year.

Chris Foss, founder of Plumpton College’s Wine Division, spoke to Harpers about the scheme, which he is working on in collaboration with WineGB.

“As well as getting information to the industry about sustainability issues, it would also create a sustainability brand and scheme for the industry to work towards. In the UK, we have Red Tractor and Leaf for the farming industry, but there’s nothing wine-specific,” he said.

The scheme follows on from the WineSkills sustainability initiative, which was established by Plumpton in 2010, also in collaboration with WineGB.

The initiative set out a number of guidelines and aims for producers, such as promoting soil health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The new scheme aims to put these objectives into an official framework similar to Terra Vitis – the Beaujolais sustainability initiative that now has regional associations in five other areas of France.

“This is about an industry getting together to tackle the most important environmental issues: including carbon recycling and use of energy. It's not about telling people what they can and can't do, but building a community which then discusses the road to sustainability.”

The scheme is part of on-going work by Foss and the team at Plumpton’s Wine Division to create a “hub for the English wine industry”.

WineGB could have a base at the college’s Rock Lodge vineyard, where numerous research projects are currently underway.

Adviclim, a project which looks at the adaptation of viticulture to climate change by using heat mapping in vineyards, is a priority for Foss, who is retiring from Plumpton at the end of the academic year.

He said: “Rock Lodge is one of most intensively studied vineyards in world. We’re participating with vineyards in Cotnari, Rheingau, Bordeaux and Val de Loire, looking at climate change scenarios and how those changes will affect the growth cycle of the vines.

“We’re also looking at disease resistance with a number Piwi vines. We’ve got a randomised trial block of 40 different varieties, which should yield some very interesting results.”