The SW Summary: On seaweed vs mildew, climate adaptation in Bordeaux, certified sustainable in New York, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Seaweed vs mildew: Could seaweed extract replace pesticides in the vineyard?

The Fish Site shares the learnings of a new study that demonstrates the high potential of seaweed as a plant protective agent. Research from the SEAWINES project, led by the University of the Basque Country and the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training, shows how the invasive seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae “activates and enhances the defence mechanisms of grape vines.” Whilst more testing is required, the researchers are “optimistic about the future of the seaweed extract…to reduce or replace the most common chemical treatments in viticulture.”

The three-year SEAWINE project launched last year with the aim of finding an ecological alternative to combat downy mildew and powdery mildew. The project is exploring the potential use of two algae, Ulva ohnoiand the invasive seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae. Having seen positive results from Rugulopteryx okamurae under greenhouse conditions, the next phase of the study is to test the algae extracts in vineyards in Jerez and La Rioja. “We will also be monitoring the impact across the stages of winemaking – in other words, to see the effect these treatments have on grape and wine quality, as well as on the biostimulation and antifungal effect they produce,” explains research associate Iratxe Zarraonaindia. Read more here.

Symington Family Estate first to achieve Portugal’s Sustainable Winegrowing Certification

Symington Family Estate is now the first winery in Portugal to have achieved the national new Sustainable Winegrowing Certification. In the drinks business Patrick Schmitt explains how the new certification was created by Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho (IVV), Portugal’s wine governing body, and ViniPortugal, the promotional association. The certification aims to “establish a clear, robust, independent and internationally recognised certification framework,” covering sustainability topics across 86 themes. 

Symington Family Estates was awarded the certification following a comprehensive three-day audit by LRQA, a leading independent certification organisation. Director Rob Symington emphasises the importance of having an independent seal, noting how “the fact that there are countless sustainability certifications is a challenge, but without third party frameworks, we are just left with claims made by companies.” Read more here.

Climate adaptation in Bordeaux

In the drinks business Arabella Mileham discusses the importance of climate change adaptation for the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB). The CIVB is working together with France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) and the Technical Institute on a number of initiatives focused on improving biodiversity, agroecology and agroforestry, and reducing carbon emissions. CIVB’s technical director Marie-Catherine Dufour notes how more and more growers are interested to take part in the sustainability projects.

One of the projects looks at how to “future-proof high-quality rootstocks.” Currently only 15 different rootstocks are used in Bordeaux, but there are around 30 potential rootstocks that could be more resistant in hotter climates. The CIVB is supporting the INRAE in collecting data that could then be used to create new resistant rootstocks that thrive in future climates.

Another key initiative focuses on the trialling of more drought-tolerant grape varieties. Since the approval of a number of new varieties by France’s national appellation body INAO in January 2021, around 100ha in Bordeaux have been planted with the new heat-tolerant varieties. As Bordeaux is predominantly a blend, growers are keen to experiment with the new varieties and to see how they can produce differently in the future using different proportions. Dufort is confident that Bordeaux will maintain its traditional profile, emphasising that the experimentation is “not a revolution, but a question of adaptation and prioritising of the key varieties.” Read the full article here.

Certified sustainable in New York

Wine Business shares a press release from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation announcing the first set of vineyards certified by the New York Sustainable Winegrowing Program. The voluntary third-party certification program is based on regionally defined sustainability standards, which are “compiled in the annually reviewed VineBalance Workbook.” The standards encompass “144 action items addressing various aspects of sustainability, including input reduction, soil health, water protection, resources and waste, energy conservation, ecosystem health, climate resiliency, continuous improvement, and social equity.”

The certification process is undertaken by a third-party auditor to ensure integrity and credibility. Wine produced with a minimum of 85% certified grapes can use the New York Sustainable Winegrowing Trustmark on the bottle, which can help consumers identify these wines. See the full list of certified wineries here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.