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What Is Sustainability?

Sustainable development is the overarching paradigm of the United Nations. The concept of sustainable development was described by the 1987 Bruntland Commission Report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are four dimensions to sustainable development, which are intertwined, not separate: Society, Environment, Culture and Economy.

Sustainability is a paradigm for thinking about the future in which environmental, societal and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life. For example, a prosperous society relies on a healthy environment to provide food and resources, safe drinking water and clean air for its citizens.

One might ask, what is the difference between sustainable development and sustainability? Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it (e.g. sustainable agriculture and forestry, sustainable production and consumption, good government, research and technology transfer, education and training, etc.).

Main image copyright (C) Wine Australia. All other images on this page are courtesy of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia members from McLaren Vale.

Isaac Foreman Serio Drone Photography Gemtree Wines

What is Sustainable Winegrowing?

Growing and making wine sustainably is a holistic approach to production that evolves the environmental aspect of the craft. It looks at how we can better use energy and water to create efficiency, support regions and communities, and establish a business that is resilient and thriving.

Where organic and biodynamic practices look specifically at environmental management, sustainable winegrowing takes a broader view to improve social and economic performance. Fortunately, many growers and makers in Australia are practicing sustainably already, it’s just getting into the habit of documenting everything to make it official.

As part of the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program, information collected allows a greater understanding of what’s happening in the vineyard or winery. It allows our community to know where they are and have a view to where they want their practice to be. So, they can be proactive, rather than reactive.


Image copyright (C) Gemtree Wines (photographer SERIO)

Yangarra Estate Winery Image 7095272817507172352 n

Sustainability in McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale producers have a proud history of sustainable wine grape growing. The region is one of Australia’s most environmentally sustainable wine regions, leading the way in organic practices, water management and climate-appropriate plantings*. (*Source Wine Australia)

In 2009 McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association (MVGWTA) introduced the Sustainable Australia Winegrowing Program (SAW) which was a result of a series of initiatives developed by MVGWTA since the early 2000’s. SAW was developed to maximise grower and regional overall sustainability, and aimed to minimise environmental impacts. The data captured and reported provided growers with the best management tool to demonstrate their performance against their regional peers and recognised best practice. The Program assessed sustainability through the triple bottom line approach (environment, economic and social) and focused on continuous improvement of the grower and the region’s results over time.

In its ten years of operation, the SAW Program ran until early 2019 by which point, 72% of McLaren Vale’s area under vine used the SAW Program to assess and improve practices. Following a global review of the sustainability landscape, MVGWTA and The Australian Wine Research Institute, with support from Wine Australia and Australian Grape and Wine worked together to develop a single national sustainability program, building on the strengths of the then existing Entwine and SAW Programs.

For further information regarding Australia's national sustainability program Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, please click here.

Image copyright (C) Yangarra Estate

Paxton Vineyard Mc Laren Vale Image2

Snapshot of Sustainability in McLaren Vale (as of 1st July 2021):

  • McLaren Vale has 123 Sustainable Winegrowing Australia vineyard members (28 certified members)
  • McLaren Vale has 5 Sustainable Winegrowing Australia winery members (3 certified members)
  • McLaren Vale has the highest percentage of certified Biodynamic and Organic vineyards in Australia with approximately 38% of vineyards in the area certified Biodynamic and Organic*. (*source AWRI report)
  • In the 1990s, McLaren Vale became Australia’s first wine region to self-impose water restrictions on its underground resources (*source Willunga Basin Water Company)
  • McLaren Vale is home to the first and largest recycled water network in Australia with approximately 50% of vineyards in the region irrigated using treated reclaimed water. (*source)

Image copyright (C) Paxton Wines