There are many reasons to turn to sustainability: to address environmental concerns, to address health concerns, to protect a large investment in land, to meet consumer demand, to foster good PR, etc., etc. But one reason that is unique to wine seems to be rarely discussed. It is what we call the Hi-Fi principle.
Wine has the unique ability to taste of a place. If one is fortunate enough to have a vineyard that shows this magical ability: to have a unique expression, different from any other vineyard and consistent from vintage to vintage, then that is surely worth protecting. But here we have a different requirement of sustainability: it is not about merely sustaining the greater world, but of somehow keeping a specific site true to taste. And since we do not know what it is that creates that magic “somewhereness” we have to assume that any external influence could be a hazard. Now we have a different reason to be organic: bringing in chemicals from outside and putting them on the land and plants will bring a “somewhere-elseness” into our “somewhereness”. But would that only apply to chemicals? Could organic inputs also affect the uniqueness of site?
For some years now we have been carefully thinking about protecting our unique expression of place. We have set aside land for growing peastraw, wheatstraw, and other crops for growing green material for compost making, so we do not have to bring supplies in from outside. We have only allowed the natural indigenous yeasts of our land and winery to be used for winemaking, as our microbial population must also be part of that somewhereness (and as we one of only a small number of wineries to have had our winery, land and wine DNA analysed to trace the origins of our yeasts we know that they are both native and, in many cases unique to site). Perhaps the most extreme step is that, since our pressings and stems from winemaking go into the compost, we have taken to making compost separately for each vineyard. So when a Cornish Point wine is pressed, those pressings are delivered back to Cornish Point to be composted there, so that they don’t get mixed into another vineyard and somehow dilute the uniqueness of the site.
Is this just anal daftness? The problem is we don’t know, and will never know, whether this is important or not. But, if it is important and we ignore it, then we can never undo our actions.