09 May Sustainable Winegrowers
Our Commitment to a Sustainable Future
“Let’s make a world of difference in wine”. That is the slogan of Sustainable Winegrowers Australia, an association that Rob Dolan Wines is proud to be a part of. Governed by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), this program is about much more than environmental impacts. It’s about taking a holistic approach to social, economic and community considerations. It’s about building a sustainable future for Australian wine that’s based on continuous improvement.
“It’s our little bit to help change the world. To make sure we can do things to the best of our ability and consider how it will affect the future, and people in the future” says owner Rob Dolan. Currently only the winery is a member, but this year we are extending to bring all our vineyards into the program. Starting with the Home Block, which is in the process of being transformed into an organic block. “We have made a commitment to grow our grapes and make our wine in a sustainable way.” says Meg Brodtman MW, Brand Business Manager at Rob Dolan Wines.
About Sustainable Winegrowers Australia (SWA)
Launched in 2019, the SWA program is the culmination of years of research and previous sustainable practice programs like Entwine. The SWA is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is modelled on ‘best practices’ from around the world.
Sustainable Winegrowing Australia has 6 focus areas.
- Land and Soil. Enhancing and protecting the soil by ensuring vital nutrients are replenished for long-term fertility.
- Water. Improve efficiency by reducing water use and wastage across growing grapes and making wine.
- People and Business. Fostering strong relationships within the local community, the supply chain, and the broader industry while improving business efficiencies.
- Biodiversity. Conservation and ecosystem diversity through improvements in land management.
- Energy. Lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce climate change impacts through clean energy practices.
- Waste. Reducing, reusing and recycling to help the Australian wine community achieve zero waste targets by 2050.
Our Journey So Far
So what does it mean to be growing grapes and making wine in a sustainable way? The journey to full SWA accreditation will take many years, but the steps along the way have already begun here at Rob Dolan Wines. “It’s about making sure we are viable for the long term,” says General Manager and Winemaker Ben Dolan. And not just viable as a business. We want to make sure that future generations can enjoy our wine, and can be involved in a thriving Australian wine industry that continues to excel in world markets.
The first step has been to focus on our winery. We looked at everything from energy, to waste, to water usage and asked ourselves, how can we make it better? The Rob Dolan winery is one of the largest in the Yarra Valley. Not only are we producing our own wine, but we also have capacity to make wine for many other brands in the state. Wineries use a lot of energy during vintage! All the pumps and equipment that power the process are often running 24 hours per day in the busiest time of the year. The addition of multiple solar panel arrays to our buildings has improved our energy efficiency dramatically, improving our carbon footprint and aligning with one of the key focus areas of SWA.
Did you know that commercial wineries use a lot of water? It is often remarked by winemakers that their biggest job is cleaning! Everything the juice touches, from picking bins, through hoses and into tanks and eventually into barrels, needs to be squeaky clean. It’s so we can make sure the delicious wine that lands in the bottles is protected from spoilage. A perfect drop every time. But that journey can involve a lot of water. Putting into place strategies and processes to reduce our winery water use has been a key component in reaching our sustainability goals.
To ensure we keep travelling along the path to sustainability, Rob Dolan Wines has put in place a Sustainability Action Plan that we frequently update. This plan outlines what steps we are taking to reduce our inputs and outputs, measures those steps, and then reports on their effectiveness. Sharing our journey and supporting the community around us is another step in the process. It’s about being accountable, about fostering relationships with people and communities, and strengthening our future. To this end, Rob Dolan Wines is a passionate advocate for local community groups, supporting many fundraising efforts with donations.
The Next Steps
Our next focus is on improving sustainability in the vineyards. Many of you will be familiar with our ‘Home Block’, a welcoming sight as you drive through the gates of our Warrandyte home. This block is being transitioned into an organically grown vineyard. A process that will take 5 years to achieve.This means removing the use of chemical sprays and increasing soil biodiversity. But the ‘Home Block’ is just the start.
Rob Dolan Wines works closely with vineyards across the Yarra Valley to produce outstanding quality fruit for the wines we make. The next step in our journey to becoming more sustainable is to bring all our growers into the SWA program. This involves community collaboration and commitment to improving vineyard ecosystems and soil biodiversity across the many vineyards in the Yarra Valley we work with.
“We are thinking about the process and the steps required to make sure we are looking after our land and our site” Ben Dolan says. Our journey to becoming accredited with Sustainable Winegrowers Australia has begun and we’re excited to share the story with our customers, trade partners and with the wider community in Australian wine. Stay tuned for more updates as we take the next big steps in our sustainability journey.
The Rob Dolan Wines Team