De Bortoli takes sustainability to award winning level

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If sustainable wine production is important to you – and we think it should be – then you will be thrilled to know that De Bortoli Wines has today been awarded the first ever Sustainability Advantage Platinum Project certificate in New South Wales, in recognition of outstanding environmental leadership and commitment to innovation.

The certificate recognises ‘The De Bortoli Method’, a unique potassium recovery system designed to eliminate the environmental impact of potassium build up in soil and significantly reduce dependence on imported caustic cleaning agents.

Sustainability Advantage is the NSW Government’s flagship program, offered via the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), which encourages and enables sustainable best practice in the NSW business community. De Bortoli Wines is one of just 12 NSW companies (and the only winery) to achieve Gold Partner recognition, and is now the first to attain a Platinum Project.

The OEH presented the Platinum Project certificate to the De Bortoli Wines Environment Team today at a ceremony at the family-owned business’s Bilbul Estate near Griffith.

“De Bortoli Wines is widely recognised as a leader in the business community for its demonstrated commitment to sustainable production and consumption,” said Tom Grosskopf, Director, Metropolitan Branch, NSW OEH.

“With this Platinum Project, which is circular by design, De Bortoli Wines should consider itself as a world leader in the pursuit of beyond zero waste and zero harm.”

The De Bortoli Method is the culmination of five years of research and development, and is one of numerous innovative sustainability practices De Bortoli Wines has implemented over the past decade, as it strives to become a ‘Zero Waste Winery’. Initiatives include wise water management, energy efficiency and improved waste management.

“Our underlying philosophy is that it is up to this generation to manage our resources carefully for the future generations to come,” said Darren De Bortoli, Managing Director of De Bortoli Wines. “Our ultimate aim is to eliminate waste to landfill from all aspects of viticulture and wine making, and our culture of continuous improvement drives us to explore new and innovative approaches to resource efficiency and waste minimisation.

“Great wines begin in the vineyard but it requires everyone in the business to focus on what they can do to support the process, right down to minimising our carbon footprint.”

De Bortoli’s potassium recovery system utilises electrolysis to recover potassium from spent winery wash water and produces a cleaning solution (potassium hydroxide) for reuse at the winery. It is designed
to extend the life of the business’s wastewater farm, which was established in 2005 when the winery switched from sodium based cleaning agents to potassium based cleaning agents to lessen the winery’s impact on the environment. Fodder and grain crops are grown using the winery’s wastewater and are sold to offset the majority of wastewater management costs. The De Bortoli Method aims to decrease the tonnage of potassium irrigated on the farm to equal the amount of potassium removed by cropping.

This technology has the potential for commercial application across the wine industry or for other manufacturers that use caustic cleaners. In addition to improving wastewater recycling, by reducing the usage of imported caustics, it has the potential to deliver significant savings and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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The quest to become Australia’s first Zero Waste Winery

Over the past few years, driven by both philosophical and pragmatic factors but mostly by the desire to leave a legacy for future generations, De Bortoli Wines has changed its thinking and approach to growing grapes and making wine. To achieve their ultimate goal of becoming Australia’s first Zero Waste Winery, the business has invested more than $15 million to implement a number of innovative sustainability initiatives that have generated a 20% return on investment over five years and cut carbon emissions by more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. The changes made in the vineyard have not only brought environmental and sustainable benefits, but have also resulted in healthier fruit that produces better quality wine which, in turn, leads to a healthier business. Key initiatives include:

Water Management

With sodium a major cause of salinity, De Bortoli upgraded its Bilbul waste water treatment facility replacing sodium-based cleaning agents with potassium. The switch meant the winery’s waste water would contain potash, a common agricultural fertiliser, providing the opportunity to reuse it to grow crops such as sorghum, wheat and oats, which are sold to offset the majority of wastewater management costs.

The installation of a low energy aerator to treat wastewater has reduced power requirements from 400 kilowatt hours to eight kilowatt hours, saving over $200,000 a year.

De Bortoli has also implemented an aerobic biological water treatment plant at the Yarra Valley winery to filter and recycle waste.

Carbon Footprint

De Bortoli Wines’ ‘Re-engineering Our Future for a Carbon Economy Project’ from 2011 to 2014 focused on minimising waste, maximising water efficiency and reducing energy consumption in all areas of business. Most notably, it saw the installation of the Australian wine industry’s largest solar panel array at Bilbul in 2013. Supplementing power from the grid, this installation cut the company’s carbon emissions by more than 314 tonnes a year.

Packaging and Waste

As an early signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC), De Bortoli developed
a five-year plan that has involved redesigning packaging to produce less waste and improve recyclability, including the development of lighter weight bottles and removing dividers.

Segregating and onselling various waste streams like cardboard, plastic and glass, for example, reducing waste materials by using knock-down packaging that can be sent back to the supplier to be reused, has cut the amount of waste to landfill from 300 tonnes a year to 48 tonnes a year.

Biological Farming

Using its Yarra Valley Estate as a pilot, De Bortoli has adopted the biological farming techniques of Dr Elaine Ingham of Soil Food Web Australia to improve the microbial activity and water holding capacity of their soils, moving away from conventional chemical use. This is the largest vineyard in Australia using biological viticulture techniques.

Practices include compost and mulch, cover cropping, worm activity and compost tea.

Recognition and Awards

De Bortoli Wines’ sustainability credentials have earned numerous accolades including:

  • 2016: Awarded the first Sustainability Advantage Platinum Project certificate in NSW by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
  • 2016: Finalist – United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards
  • 2015: Winner – ABA100 Australian Business Awards for Sustainability
  • 2015: Finalist – Banksia Sustainability Awards
  • 2014: The first NSW winery to become an OEH Sustainability Advantage Gold Partner
  • 2014: Winner – NSW Green Globe Excellence in Sustainability Award for a Medium to Large Business
  • 2014: Winner – the local, regional and state NSW Business Chamber Awards for Sustainability
  • 2014: Winner – Tidy Town Sustainability award for a large business
  • 2014, 2013, 2012: Finalist – Drinks Business Green Awards International Sustainability Award
  • 2011: Winner – Drinks Business Green Awards International Sustainability Award.