Grapes, wines, vines
and Australian sheep?
New Zealand's leading sustainable winery Yealands Estate has made the move across the Tasman to launch its unique, award-winning Marlborough portfolio in Australia, bringing with it a range of quirky sustainable initiatives.
In his quest to develop one of the world's leading sustainable wineries, Marlborough-based Yealands Estate owner and founder Peter Yealands, has devised an inherently Kiwi way to keep the grass- and emissions- down at his vineyard. By using Babydoll sheep.
The flock of diminutive sheep hail from Australia and, after a settling in period, can now be found grazing amongst 125 hectares of sauvignon blanc at the Marlborough vineyard.
"Mowing the lawns at a 1,000 hectare vineyard uses a fair bit of fuel so we're looking to these miniature sheep to help out," says Peter Yealands.
It's the latest in a long line of quirky initiatives Peter has employed to tackle the challenge of mowing the lawns since launching the winery in August 2008. He tried using regular sheep but they developed a taste for the grapes. Then he trialled 100 guinea pigs, although this proved unviable on a commercial scale.
For Peter, Babydoll sheep are proving to be the most practical 'green' solution, especially as their small statue height (45-60cm tall when fully grown) means they are no threat to the grapes.
And they're just part of a raft of sustainably initiatives that helped Yealands Estate achieve carbonNZero™ certification from Landcare Research in March 2009- a feat only 11 other wineries around the world have achieved.
Storm water is harvest to irrigate the vineyards surroundings the winery and on the Esate more than 20 wetland areas help preserve and attract native species. Yealands Estate has its own wind turbines and two 22kw solar panels that help provide hot water to the winery. Even the winery building is position to minimise the distance trucks must travel at harvest to get the grapes to the winery.
Yealands Estate's unique Marlborough portfolio is now available in various states across Australia, meaning wine lovers across the nation will be able to indulge in this environmentally conscious drop. The Australia portfolio is made up of the top-tier Yealands Estate range and the more widely available Yealands Way.
The Yealands Estate range includes:
Sauvignon Blanc- $22.99
Pinot Gris- $22.99
The second range, Yealands Way, includes:
Sauvignon Blanc- $16.99
Pinot Gris- $16.99
Pinot Noir- $16.99
And to proudly prove that going green still means you can make a good 'green drop', wines from the portfolio have received a host of accolades- including a trio of highly coveted Blue-Gold Top 100 medals- for the Yealands Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, and Yealands Way 2009 Riesling and 2009 Sauvignon Blanc- at the prestigious 2010 Sydney International Wine Competition. Yealands Estate- The Facts
The Yealands Estate vineyard and winery has been developed in the foothills of the Awatere Valley, which were considered by many to be too steep for viticulture. In typical Peter fashion, he set out to prove the cynics wrong and transformed these rolling hills and gullies into terraced vineyard blocks using GPS technology to perfectly position the rows.
Yealands' vision has translated into a multi-million dollar production facility that incorporates state-of-the-art green production technology with a host of innovative ideas for sustainable practice.
After a successful vintage and local launch in 2008, Yealands Estate is New Zealand's largest privately-owned vineyard and leading carbon neutral winery.
The environmentally conscious drop is now available across Australia, with stockists in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. Ranging in Victoria will be secured from February 2010.
The Australian portfolio comprises of Yealand Estate and Yealand Way.
Peter Yealand attributes his respect for the Australian wine market as one of the leading motivations to bring his portfolio across the Tasman.
Yealands Estate winery has been built from the ground up to embrace environmentally sustainable viticulture techniques.
In March 2009, Yealands Estate winery received carbonNZero™ certification from Landcare Research for its organsation and wine products- a feat only 11 other wineries around the world have achieved. It was the first time a wine company has measured carbon emissions since formation.
A month later, it was awarded the category trophy for small to medium businesses at the 'EECA' awards- the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Awards, held by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EEDA).
Around the perimeter of the vineyard, storm water collection swales harvest water that is used to irrigate the grapevines while temperature monitoring probes, state-of-the-art energy management software and advanced heat recovery technology ensure maximum energy efficiency throughout the winery.
Throughout the estate, more than 20 wetland areas have been developed to preserve the indigenous native species, including a wetland within the winery's stormwater disposal area. The winery itself is encapsulated in a highly insulated, solar reflective cladding and generates some of its own energy through solar and wind power technology.
Yealands has also experimented with a range of environmentally friendly techniques to keep the grass- and emissions- down at the vineyard. Peter originally introduced sheep to graze the 1,000 hectare estate. For a while this was effective in managing pest plants and weeds; however the sheep soon developed a taste for the vines and grapes.
Peter's next brain wave was to introduce 100 guinea pigs to the Estate to keep the grass down. There was no risk of these critters reaching the grapes however after a trial, the team of Yealands realised it was unviable on a commercial scale so Peter went back to the drawing board.
Pete thinks he's got the formula right this time and now has a dozen Australian Babydoll sheep grazing between the vines, to not only keep unwanted weeds under control, but also to reduce the need for fertiliser and eliminate the need for mechanical mowing. Since Australian Babydoll sheep only reach a diminutive 45-60cm tall when fully grown, they are no threat to the grapes.
Yealands plans to cross-breed the Australian Babydoll with Saxon Merino and grow the flock to 10,000, which will provide additional opportunities in the textile industry due to the wool's premium texture and lustre.
Yealands are currently working to help the Falcon, a rare and endangered native New Zealand bird, by introducing an exclusive breeding programme the Estate. In return, the Falcons help to contain the pest birds who feed on the grapes.
It's not just the sustainable practices that have received recognition. Since the brand launched in its local New Zealand markets in 2008, Yealands Estate's portfolio has collected more than 100 awards for quality and excellence.Peter Yealands
Founder of Yealands Estate Winery and Vineyard
Yealands Estate is underpinned by the determined spirit and unconventional thinking of founder and principle Peter Yealands. Happiest with his sleeves rolled up, Peter has a track record of innovation and entrepreneurial success. His development of New Zealand's largest privately owned vineyard reflects a passion for environmental sustainability and 'out of the box' thinking.
Peter has developed numerous vineyard sites in Marlborough; many in locations previously considered unsuitable for viticulture. In 2002 he began to consolidate his viticulture interests in the Awatere Valley, to the southeast of Marlborough's Wairau Plains. While others thought the rolling contours of the land too steep for vineyard development, Peter pursued his vision and has transformed the land into terraced vineyard blocks.
The Yealands Estate vineyard, stretching 1,000 hectares, is New Zealand's single largest privately owned vineyard. The centrepiece is a $45 million winery, which was developed with sustainability in mind to reduce the environmental impact of the energy-intensive wine business. The winery is a showcase of leading technology and sustainable processes, harnessed to produce premium wine on a large scale.
Peter's entrepreneurial vision and ambitious attitude extends well beyond the vineyard. He was one of the first in New Zealand to recognise the potential to farm Greenshell mussels commercially and in 1971 was issued with New Zealand's first marine farming license. For the next decade he helped develop the fledgling marine farming industry, designing equipment and innovative technologies that benefited the entire aquaculture industry. Today, on the back of Peter's pioneering efforts, marine farming is one of the region's major economic contributors and is a $160 million a year export earner for the country.
In the mid-'80s Peter established one of New Zealand's most successful deer farms, which was recongised with a rural environment award which reflects his commitment to excellence in environmental practice.
Yealands Estate has married Peter's immense vineyard development skills with his far-reaching vision to reduce the environmental impact of the wine business. He's breaking new ground using advanced green technologies and innovative solutions of his own, to lead the industry in sustainable large-scale premium wine production.Tamra Washington
Yealands Estate Winemaker
Tamra Washington is regarded as one of the rising stars of New Zealand's wine industry. At 31 years of age, Tamra has already received international recognition for crafting award-winning wines across Europe and Australia, and has now returned to her hometown to lead the Yealands winemaking team.
Tamra was destined for a career in the wine industry from an early age. Growing up in Marlborough during the region's viticulture 'boom years', she spent school holidays working in vineyards and winery restaurants, which sparked a fascination for both the product and the industry.
After completing her Oenology and Viticulture degree at Lincoln University (achieving the honour of being named the top student in her year), Tamra's first position was in the laboratory at Serensin Estate (Marlborough). From there she headed to the Napa Valley to work her first overseas vintage at Francisan Estate (California), followed by vintages in Australia's Hunter Valley (Arrow Field Winery), Margaret River (Hay Shed Hill Winery) and Riverland (Evans and Tate Winery). Through these international stints, Tamra acquired hands-on experience in every aspect of the winemaking process working her way up from pruning in the vineyards to cellar door and sales, to working as an assistant winemaker.
An offer to take on the role of Head Winemaker for Casa Vinicola Calatrasi's 2002 vintage saw Tamra head to Sicily, where she stayed for almost four years. In this role Tamra worked as the Head Winemaker for the Calatrasi Group eventually overseeing wineries in Sicily, Puglia and Tunisia- a stunning achievement for such a young winemaker.
With many accolades under her belt, Tamra then reacquainted herself with New World varieties, completing vintages at Evans and Tate *in Australia's Margaret River) and Kim Crawford (New Zealand), before becoming a 'flying winemaker', overseeing wine production from Italy's northern Veneto region for the Sainsbury supermarket group.
Now she's back in her hometown as leading the winemaking team for Yealands Estate.
"It's the ultimate prize," says Tamra, "working with super premium cool climate fruit and facing the unique challenge of being involved from scratch in the set up of a new winery and wine brand where there's a total commitment to green sustainable principles."