How Argentinian wine is securing a sustainable future

Recognising how crucial sustainability has become within the last 20 years, Argentinian wineries have made many adaptations to the way that they work, producing sustainable premium wine that sets the benchmark for the rest of the world.

As the network of communities and the projects continues to flourish, a new dawn for elevating further sustainability is being seen across Argentina, with scientists, growers and vineyard managers all working together collaboratively to bring insights from all corners of the sector.

Back in 2010, the Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Commission was created and the following year began working with wineries to publish the first version of the Self Assessment Protocol for Viticultural Sustainability of Bodegas de Argentina. As the subject progressed, with the participation of the National Institute of Viticulture (INV), the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences also came on board to contribute to the Protocol. For these reasons, Argentina has become an inspiration for other winemaking countries and an excellent example of how the wine industry can better support people and the planet.

Bodegas Esmeralda was the first to gain this certification, but 80 more wineries followed, showing that issues such as climate change, deforestation, dwindling water supplies and exhausted soils was not something that the Argentinian wine industry wanted to ignore. The number of productive units (wineries, fincas)  certified is now 136 and this is still set to rise over the coming years.

The adaptations to focus and implementation in winemaking as sustainable has led to more and more producers, large and small, across Argentina making wines rooted in a philosophy of environmental consciousness, excellence and quality. As such, Mendoza for instance is now one of the world’s leading organic regions with Bodega Argento – a member of Grupo Avinea – the largest organically certified producer in the country as a pioneer for such a positive movement.

In 2012, Bodega Argento began a major organic conversion and developed strict protocols to reduce its carbon emissions as well as making a commitment to support the communities where the winery is based, an initiative for which it gained its Fair Trade certification.

Sustainability initiatives are rolling out across all of Argentina. There is an ethos for best practice on different scales and in a sweep of areas from large to small.

Notable examples of such foresight can already be witnessed at Terrazas de los Andes. Daniela Mezzatesta, sustainability and vineyards manager at Terrazas de los Andes explains: “I look at regenerating our soils. This means looking at the soils itself with regards to biodiversity and water. Water is our most scarce resource” but with the right research and a supportive team of people all working together, she points out that anything is possible and emphasises how the topic of sustainability is so much bigger than one winery or even one country.

Mezzatesta believes that Argentina stands out for having excellent climatic conditions that help in preserving its mountain ecosystem in viticulture and that it can combine its scientific knowledge with the technology available. She explains: “For instance, having drip irrigation systems makes us extremely aware of the importance of water as a natural resource and we work a lot in measuring and preserving it. Less water also means fewer weeds to control. Argentina also has genetic diversity available, especially with Malbec, that will help us cope with future climate change scenarios”.

Terrazas de los Andes is currently working on a series of projects that involve around 20 lead researchers to work towards common goals. One project involves putting nest boxes in the vineyards in order to promote biodiversity. Now, the people in the vineyard are more aware of sustainability too, she points out. Having everyone involved and creating unity is best practice in Argentina.

Approximately two thirds of the wineries across Argentina are classed as small and are run by very few staff and sustainability is integral to how they operate. For instance Bodega Noemia in the Neuquen province in the Rio Negro Valley, Patagonia receives very little rain but benefits from an abundance of water thanks to the Rio Negro River and so is irrigated up to four times a year by flooding that happens naturally. The vineyard does not receive any type of treatment, sprays or sulphites and is certified organic.

Daniela Mansilla Galdeano agricultural engineer and viticultural advisor in the province of Córdoba, revealed that Patente X is an associative wine venture that started in 2011. The 3.5 hectares vineyard was planted in 2004 and is located in Colonia Caroya, Córdoba, Argentina and has agro-ecological certification granted by the local Municipality.

According to Galdeano, the team works “in a sustainable way, which balances three aspects: environmental, economic and social” and explained that in relation to the environment, Galdeano considers that sustainable management of soil and water is fundamental, and added: “Our objectives in relation to these aspects are achieving the highest possible efficiency of water use as well as avoiding soil erosion processes”.

In Mendoza, the Vinodinamicos group is a collection of wineries of all different sizes and is a benchmark when it comes to producing organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines. Over the past decade, the amount of global surface area under vine with organic crops has quintupled to its current figure of 467,760 hectares and this is set to increase.

Organic and sustainable wines are and have been the strongest growth for Domaine Bousquet across the globe. Domaine Bousquet has taken this commitment to the next level by recently becoming one of only four wineries to become Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC). The Regenerative Organic Alliance has adopted USDA Organic standards as a baseline. ROC requires certification in three areas: soil health and land management, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness. Sensibly, potential members apply existing certifications from blue chip organisations such as Demeter, Certified Fair Trade, and Certified Humane, among others, to meet requirements.

Domaine Bousquet co-owner and CEO Anne Bousquet cited the potential reach of ROC Certification identifying “individual farmers and agricultural entities seeking to fight climate change and campaign for social justice are to be respected, but they cannot move the needle on their own. If we are to make a meaningful difference, then we must work together, and ROC certification effectively unites all sectors of farming”.

Bodega Argento has also developed a portfolio where 100% of the wines have sustainability credentials and has a desire to lead Argentine viticulture in a sustainable way. As part of this, it has developed an integrated sustainability plan to be able to create value for its consumers through the offer of a sustainable portfolio. “One of our main achievements is to contribute to making sustainability reachable,” says Grupo Avinea’s sustainability leader Andrés Valero.

Having a plan in place has, after all, been the best course of action. Consumers want to know a winery’s eco-credentials, but also goal-setting has been a way for lots of companies to make progress little-by-little. For instance, in 2017, Trivento adhered to the Global Pact of the United Nations and, since then, its actions have been focused on contributing to sustainable development goals to generate a positive impact on people and the planet.

Trivento sustainability manager Maria Mercedes Alvarez explained: “We give great importance to people´s development and to the link with the community. The Program Winds of Opportunities aims at fostering quality education. It has different initiatives such as one of completion of education with part time attendance so that employees finish primary and secondary school.”

Thanks to the initiative, 96 Trivento collaborators have received their diplomas since it began, plus its annual scholarship initiative, which helps children and youth who need monetary resources to finish their studies, has seen Trivento grant 50 annual scholarships per year from 2019.

Alvarez reveals that Trivento is also working towards goals for climate change that will affect the industry in years to come. “Climate change is another concern/issue we work intensively to withdraw,” said Alvarez, adding that Trivento takes care of its water resources and uses.

“We measure the total amount of water we use in each process. We have drip irrigation in all of our vineyards (more than 1660-planted hectares),” he explained. Additionally, Alvarez observes that, for Trivento, “the reduction of greenhouse gasses is one of our greatest concerns” and yet has found new ways to tackle this.

“In 2019, we installed a photovoltaic power plant, which is the most important one of the winemaking industry in Argentina,” she explained. This, essentially, allows Trivento to substitute 10% of the energy consumption of its winery located in Maipú with clean energy.

The path towards a more sustainable future is long and yet the desire to adapt for the better in every way and grow by learning from one another is credited to Argentina’s determination to succeed. Each winery brings to the fore its research, its targets and its own initiatives. Large or small, or geographically varied, there is always something new that can be learned from peers across the industry. The teamwork it inspires is not just changing the face of Argentinian wine, but also its future.

Recently, Wines of Argentina joined the Sustainable Wine Round Table, a global coalition that works to both improve sustainability and raise awareness of its benefits to the wider wine industry. The goal is for the collective to assist in creating global sustainability standards and to help wineries to become more forward-thinking when it comes to considering environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Argentina is thriving and taking strides towards a hugely successful future, where premium sustainable wine is not just part of its chorus, but is essentially its remit. As Mezzatesta highlighted, raising the bar in terms of quality comes not just from one perspective on sustainability, but many minds working together to achieve the best results. She observed, it is this that is helping forge a path that can inspire others to work harmoniously with the land and the people connected to it. After all, she explained:  “Collaboration is our biggest strength – we are in this together”.

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