New Zealand wine - champions of sustainability

Sustainability is deeply rooted in the New Zealand wine industry and in this ‘new’ world such a commitment promises to pay dividends.

Flowers lining the vines at Milton Vineyards
Milton Vineyards


Manaaki Whenua

Manaaki Tangata

Haere Whakamua

If we take care of the earth,

and take care of the people,

we will take care of the future.



While we may be here for a short time, our impact can last longer than a lifetime. To the New Zealand wine industry, sustainability means growing grapes and producing our world-famous wines in such a way that we can do so for generations to come. It means consumers can trust that their bottle of New Zealand wine has been made with respect for our natural world and for our people.

New Zealand adopted sustainable winegrowing practices more than 40 years ago and now has one of the best certification systems in the world. 96% of New Zealand wineries voluntarily belong to Sustainable Winegrowing NZ™ (SWNZ), which makes sense since there is a lot to protect. SWNZ is widely recognised as a world-leading sustainability programme, and was one of the first to be established in the international wine industry in 1995.

Worth $2+ billion in exports, New Zealand’s wine industry is the sixth largest contributor to the country’s economy, and New Zealand’s commitment to producing award-winning wines that reflect its stunning landscapes and conducive climate has driven the country’s wine industry to become a world leader.

But there’s a lot more to the story than a well-established reputation for quality wines with unique aromas and flavours.

Today consumers want proof that the wine and food they choose has an authentic and sustainable life story. Luckily many passionate, forward-thinking  New Zealand winegrowers have put just as much effort into reducing environmental impact as they have into the quest for success of a quality product.

At the end of 2020, SWNZ aligned its goals with the United Nations Goals for Sustainable Development. There are six sustainability focus areas that cover what is most important to our industry, environment and people; Climate Change, Water, Waste, Plant Protection, Soil and People. Under each focus area, the goal is clear, and data from the New Zealand Winegrowers Sustainability Report 2022 both supports, and illustrates, rooms for improvement.

  • Climate Change - we are changing the way we grow to reduce our climate impact, and 100% of SWNZ vineyards are provided with personalised greenhouse gas reports. The New Zealand wine industry has committed to be carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Water - we use only what we need, protect water quality and restore our waterways. Currently, 98% of vineyards and wineries measure and record the total water they use.
  • Waste - putting the circular economy into action, with 98% of vineyards and wineries having waste reduction and recovery/recycling programmes.
  • Plant Protection - we protect the vineyards that make our world-famous wines, and 99% of vineyards use non-chemical methods for managing pests and diseases.
  • Soil - we nurture our soil and love our land, with 81% of vineyards undertaking specific activities to promote soil health last season (2020-2021).
  • People - our most valuable resource is our people, and the can-do attitude of our pioneering winemakers is present in our people today, as we innovate and adapt to protect our environment. As one of the youngest wine industries in the world, we're great at rolling up our sleeves and giving things a go.


The focus on sustainability has always been an integral part of the New Zealand wine industry which works on the philosophy that nature’s resources belong to the earth.

People are welcome to use these resources as long as they do so respectfully – a custodial responsibility preserved in the Māori concept of kaitiakitangi, meaning guardianship and protection.

Each of the 10 New Zealand wine growing regions has multiple champions of sustainability – many pioneers who continue to play their part in protecting the planet and others who’ve more recently come to the forefront with ground-breaking new initiatives.

Because together, every little bit counts.


Sustainability in play...

Bragato Research Institute

Not only is the recently opened Bragato Research Institute in Marlborough breaking new ground in research but it’s also a model of sustainability in terms of its building and operation.

The research winery which opened at the end of February in time for vintage 2020 was built to a 5-star Greenstar standard and is the first building in the region to meet these strict criteria.

The design aimed to minimise the use of crucial resources like energy, water and raw materials avoiding any adverse environmental impact. Operating sustainably the facility is a showcase for new technologies and innovation as well as trialling equipment, processing and sustainable winery operations.

Rippon Wines, Wanaka - Central Otago

Wanaka winemaker Nick Mills of Rippon, a picturesque vineyard on the shores of Lake Wanaka in the South Island, strongly believes in the long-term benefits of sustainable wine growing and the commitment of four generations has paid off.  Rippon has been awarded the Best Vineyard in Australasia and is now ranked 8th  in the world -  producing organic wines that follow biodynamic principles. This involves rendering the vines and wines as receptive as possible to their soils and surroundings. The Mills are recognised as part of the ‘first five’ pioneers of the modern Central Otago wine industry and plan to continue their dedication to the land for many more generations to come.  

Green tea antioxidant - Loveblock Wines

Another initiative believed to be a first for New Zealand is using green tea as an antioxidant in winemaking.  The Crawfords of Loveblock Wines in the Awatere Valley area of the South Island are breaking new ground by using the natural tea to replace sulphur dioxide (SO2) in their organic Sauvignon Blanc. It’s all part of Loveblock’s vision to rid their wines of the SO2 preservative that causes a range of allergic reactions in some people.

The winemakers have refined the process after their 2018 attempt resulted in wine ‘pinking’and say they are now on track to success. Their philosophy of low intervention farming is also paying off. By allowing for weeds to thrive around the vineyard there is more competition for nutrients in the soil that feeds the vines. This in turn means the vines produce fewer leaves and allow the grapes to get more sun.

Craggy Range - tree planting programme

New Zealand ‘s Craggy Range Vineyards has embarked on one of the country’s largest biodiversity programmes aiming to plant more than 150,000 native trees and plants in the coming year.

Starting with 100,000 to be planted around the company’s Martinborough vineyards this winter, the company says the massive biodiversity effort is part of their plan to do better by the land, environment and people.. Planting will include tall forests of kahiketea and tōtara and low-lying riparian areas of grasses and shrubs, interspersed with tī kōuka (cabbage trees).

As well as the major planting the company is adding additional water storage and increasing the focus on organic production The biodiversity programme also allows Craggy Range to explore using carbon sequestration to offset its operations.

Ata Rangi

Multiple award-winning Ata Rangi winery, a pioneer of winemaking in the Martinborough region, is one of only a handful of ISO14001 certified wineries in the world. The 120-acre vineyard is farmed and harvested according to strict principles to reduce the usage of water, fuel and energy. Compost is produced on site from winery waste such as grape stalks, skins, pips, and yeast lees.

Biodiversity is also fostered as a substitute for chemical insecticides and to boost soil structure. Predatory wasps are used for leaf roller caterpillar control and mixed native shelter-belts as well as inter-row wildflower planting, providing habitats for a wide variety of useful insects and microorganisms. The Ata Rangi Bush Block is a part of Project Crimson, a conservation scheme which aims to protect and restore the iconic native New Zealand rata and pohutukawa trees.

Yealands carbon neutral

The rolling hills of the Awatere Valley in Marlborough is also home to New Zealand’s only Toitū carbonzero certified winery, Yealands Estate. The company is committed to ongoing emissions reduction with an ultimate goal to generate enough energy to become self-sufficient. The winery has one of New Zealand’s largest solar panel installations and generates its own renewable energy. Yealands measures all carbon emissions from its tractors in the vineyard to the packaging and shipment of wines and set targets and strategies to reduce these emissions.

Since the launch of its wines in August 2008, Yealands has collected many significant awards for conservation practice. Initiatives include using miniature ‘babydoll’ sheep instead of tractors to manage grass and weeds and the development of more than 20 wetland areas to preserve native plant species and attract native birds.

Pernod Ricard eliminate landfill waste

Sustainable winegrowing has also been actively embraced by Pernod Ricard, one of New Zealand’s largest wine companies producing top-selling labels like Church Road and Brancott Estate.Regulating irrigation and monitoring pests and diseases in all of their vineyards throughout the country has reduced water usage and cut costs of chemicals, labour, and machinery without compromising grape quality.Other initiatives have included the use of biological pest and disease deterrents to replace chemical spraying helping to improve soil structure for better vine quality and yields in the nursery.Brancott vineyards also supports a conservation programme that uses the endangered native New Zealand falcon, the karakea, as a natural pest deterrent while providing the birds with a safe breeding environment.

Clos marguerite - harnessing the sun

At a relatively remote vineyard in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough, Jean-Charles and Marguerite Van Hove of Clos Marguerite are harnessing the sun to fight climate change, with a three-year transition to electric vehicles, irrigation and hot water, all powered by solar.

Starting with small roof of panels the winery is now hardly on the grid, and has plans for an electric tractor and winery refrigeration next.  The decision to reduce Clos Marguerite’s footprint was all part of the “real battle of climate change” says Jean-Charles.. “If we miss this one, if we can’t turn the boat, then there are not many other battles that are worth fighting, I think.”

3Sixty2 and CarbonClick

Marlborough winery 3sixty2 has become the first winemaker in New Zealand to offer carbon offsetting to customers at checkout. The winery has partnered with CarbonClick, a kiwi company making it easy for people and businesses to help fight climate change.  Each transaction includes a small contribution towards balancing out the carbon emissions of the purchase. CarbonClick funds forest restoration, tree planting, and renewable energy projects in NZ and around the world.

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