Certified sustainability initiatives have become a part of many wineries’ operations. These certifications are sometimes promoted by wine regions, sometimes individual wineries seek certification on their own, and sometimes, as is the case with Chile’s Sustainability Code for the Chilean Wine Industry (SCWI), they are the result of a country-wide effort.
According to Wines of Chile (Vinos de Chile), a private non-profit established to promote the quality and image of Chilean wine, their sustainability efforts were initiated in 2008. The sustainability framework was developed by Viñas de Colchagua in partnership with Universidad de Talca and the Vinnova-Tecnovid Technology Consortia. Upon publication in 2010, the framework represented the first sustainability code developed by a specific industry in Chile.
Wines of Chile’s Sustainability Code for the Chilean Wine Industry in viticulture was formalized in 2011 and has undergone continuous improvement since. Vinification and social categories were added in 2013. Amendments to social and biodiversity came in 2014. Human rights followed in 2018 and wine tourism was added in 2020. Currently, 351 requirements are divided into four categories:
- Viticulture (98)
- Vinification and Bottling (65)
- Social (118)
- Wine Tourism (70)
Also part of the sustainability requirements is the idea of responsible consumption of alcohol and clear communication regarding the benefits of moderate consumption. Wineries are certified every two years by ECOCERT (France), NSF (US) or SGS (Switzerland).
So, how has Chile’s Sustainability code for the Chilean Wine Industry been received by Chile’s wineries? According to Wines of Chile, 79 wineries, all of the country’s leading wineries, have adopted SCWI, which represents 80% of Chile’s bottled wine exports. 123,550 acres (36%) of vineyards are certified sustainable out of 338,534 total acres under vine in Chile. Water usage has been reduced by as much as 55% by some wineries and energy consumption has decreased by as much as 30%.
A Taste of Chile’s Sustainability
For a few specific examples, let’s taste six Chilean wines and highlight their individual sustainability achievements. SCWI-certified wines may carry the sustainability seal, others are approaching sustainability in additional ways. All wines were provided to us as tasting samples.
2018 Viñedos Emiliana Coyam, Valle de Colchagua, Chile — dense ruby with aromas of blackberries, asphalt, blueberries and crushed flower stems. Layered flavors of dark fruit include plums, blackberries, blueberries and crushed flower stems. Tannins are drying in a medium body with lively acidity. 14% abv. SRP $35
This beautiful wine is a blend of Syrah, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Malbec, Carignan and Tempranillo. All vines are planted on their own roots and the blend represents two clones of Syrah plus a field blend of other varieties.
Vinification begins in stainless steel using native yeasts. Malolactic fermentation begins naturally in-barrel and the wine aged for 14 months in new and used oak barrels, foudres and concrete eggs. Organic Wine appears on the wine label and the wine is certified organic by ECOCERT S.A., certified according to Canadian Organic Standards and bears the Canada Organic Logo.
Viñedos Emiliana’s commitment to the planet begins in the vineyard with organic and biodynamic practices and certification by multiple countries. All partner vineyards are certified organic as well.
Sustainability Efforts: Energy consumption was reduced in 2020 with the installation of a biomass heating system at the Los Robles estate and a photovoltaic power station will begin operation at Emiliana in 2021. 63% of wine bottles are lightweight, thereby reducing their carbon footprint and more than 96% of packaging supplies are recyclable. Additional details can be found in their 2018 Sustainability Report.
2019 Viña Koyle Gran Reserva Carmenere, Colchagua Valley, Chile — medium ruby with delicate aromas of blackberries and dried herbs. Flavors include blackberries, cranberries and dusty earth. Fine, grippy tannins in a medium body support the flavors and acidity keeps the wine lively. 14% abv. SRP $17
Carmenere is blended with 9% Tempranillo and 6% Petit Verdot sourced from the Los Lingues vineyard at the foot of the Andes, at higher elevations, in the Alta Colchagua.
Sustainability Efforts: Viña Koyle’s (pronounced KOO-lay) commitment to sustainability begins with their dedication to the land by farming according to organic and biodynamic principles. The wine bottle label proudly states Made With Organically Grown Grapes. Organic certification by ECOCERT S.A. and biodynamic certification by Demeter further confirm Viña Koyle’s commitment to the land. Biodiversity is maintained in their vineyards and solar panels generate 40% of energy used.
2018 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva, Red Blend Valle Del Maipo, Chile — medium ruby with aromas of cherries and blackberries. Flavors follow with the same blackberries and cherries along with green herbs and spices all supported by great acidity, smooth and drying tannins in a barely medium body. 14% abv. SRP $20
The blend is 31% Cabernet Franc, 26% Syrah, 22% Carmenère, 11% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc and Merlot were harvested first, followed by Syrah and Carmenère several weeks later. After alcoholic fermentation was complete, 75% of the wine was moved to barrel to complete malolactic fermentation and age for 12 months in French oak, 20% new. The remaining portion remained in stainless steel to preserve fruit flavors. Made With Organically Grown Grapes appears on the label, and the wine is certified organic by ECOCERT S.A.
Sustainability Efforts: Viña Tarapacá‘s sustainability initiatives include generation of hydro power capable of producing 60% of the winery’s energy and installation of solar panels. Biodiversity has been improved by planting native trees and shrubs to connect habitat between the Altos de Cantillana mountains and Maipo River. In addition to organic certification, Viña Tarapacá has earned many certifications for management, occupational health and safety, organics and sustainability in addition to Chile’s Sustainability Code for the Chilean Wine Industry.
2018 Viña Maquis Maquis Gran Reserva Cabernet Franc, Colchagua Valley, Chile —medium ruby with red and dark fruit and subtle notes of grilled jalapeño. Flavors include dark and red berries, asphalt, grilled jalapeño supported by juicy acidity and smooth tannins. 14% abv. SRP $24
Viña Maquis’ location in the Colchagua Valley between the Tinguiririca River and Chimbarongo Creek provides cooler temperatures than surrounding areas. In addition, 2018 was a cooler vintage with later harvest. Alcoholic fermentation and malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel with aging for 12 months in French oak barrels.
Sustainability Efforts: Energy savings and carbon footprint reduction have been accomplished with the use of an energy recovery system using a geothermal pump. Electric consumption has been reduced by 30% and liquified gas consumption by 90%. Biodiversity has been preserved and improved with the establishment of biological corridors and maintenance of nearby riparian habitat to promote beneficial insects, native birds and animals. Sheep are used in the vineyard to control weeds and aid in fertilization. The wine carries the SCWI sustainability seal.
2019 Viu Manent Secreto de Viu Manent Malbec, Valle de Colchagua, Chile — medium ruby with blackberry and boysenberry aromas. Ribe dark berry flavors, spices and earth are supported y gauzy tannins and juicy acidity in a medium body. 13.5% abv. SRP $15
As the name of this wine, Secreto, suggests it has a secret. We know Malbec makes up 85% of the blend, but the other varieties remain a secret. Alcoholic fermentation used natural yeast in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation proceeded in oak barrels with 36% of the wine aged in French oak barrels and the balance aged in stainless steel and concrete tanks to preserve fruit character of the wine.
Sustainability Efforts: Viu Manent‘s sustainability efforts include solar panels in the vineyard and winery to generate energy. Biodiversity has been improved by identifying and removing invasive species of plants and introducing native species in their place. Liquid industrial waste from winemaking and bottling are treated at plant at the San Carlos de Cunaco estate. The wine carries the SCWI sustainability seal and certified vegan seal.
2019 Concha y Toro Serie Ribeiras Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Marchigue, Chile — dark ruby with aromas of plums, blackberries and subtle notes of grilled jalapeño. Flavors of ripe blackberries, raspberries and plums are supported by hints of vanilla, cocoa and grilled jalapeno. Tannins are gauzy, with nice acidity in a medium body. 13.5% abv. SRP $17
Blend of 94.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Carmenere, 2.5% Syrah aged 10 months in French oak barrels and 5,000L foudres (21% new.) This Cabernet is easy sipping and so affordable.
Sustainability Efforts: Concha y Toro is headquartered in Santiago, Chile and has vineyards, wineries and bottling plants in Chile, Argentina and the United States. Distribution and sales are worldwide. According to Concha y Toro’s 2019 Sustainability Report 100% of grapes are certified sustainable, 75% of electricity in packaging plants and 80% in its cellars are generated from renewable sources. They are working to reduce the weight of packaging. In addition Concha y Toro has achieved Certified B Corporation status – a rigorous undertaking.
It is more important than ever for consumers to read wine labels and look for sustainability, organic and biodynamic seals that formalize a winery’s commitment to preserve the environment, reduce their carbon footprint and support the social welfare of their employees. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate seeing the seals on the wine bottle to aid me in making purchasing decisions.
Thanks to Creative Palate Communications for organizing our tasting and providing background information.