In the 1990s, the Cooperative Research Centre for Viticulture (CRCV) developed some foundational resources on sustainable production, components of which are still used today. These included the Viticulture Environmental Risk Assessment (VERA) and Research to Practice resources and workshops to support integrated pest management, water, nutrition and wastewater management.
In 2002, the Australian wine industry published ‘Sustaining Success’, a foundational document that advocated the immediate implementation of a triple bottom line approach (financial, social and environmental accountability) to provide a framework for members of the wine industry to continue their commitment to sustainable development.
In 2003, the Code of environmental best practice for viticulture : Sunraysia region was published by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries by Tony Smith, Sue McConnell and Adam Wightwick.
In 2004, the Australian Wine Industry Stewardship project (AWIS) commenced annual reporting of vineyard environmental stewardship. (See 2009 AWIS report). This project evolved to the Australian Wine Environmental Stewardship (AWES), EnviroWine Australia and later, Entwine Australia.
In 2005, WFA engaged Amy Russell as Natural Resource Management Coordinator tasked with nationally delivering AWIS, AWES and then EnviroWine Australia. (See Final Report on this project).
In 2009, a national sustainability program for wine-grape growers and wineries, Entwine Australia, was launched by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (now Australian Grape & Wine) with funds from the GWRDC (now Wine Australia) and the Australian Government ‘Caring for our Country’ program. Entwine Australia was managed by Amy Russell, Jonathan Green and Damien Griffante and supported by WFA’s Wine Industry National Environment Committee. The program was open to growers and winemakers across Australia, providing a platform for the collection of key sustainability metrics from vineyards and wineries and performance benchmarking enabling the identification of efficiencies, improvement and enhanced productivity, profitability, and communication. The program was supported by independent certification against the Freshcare Environmental Codes of Practice – Viticulture and Winery, which enabled formal verification and communication of community expectations and best management practices.
Concurrently, a range of approaches to sustainable management were developed in numerous regions including Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, Eden Valley, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Murray Valley, Tasmania and Yarra Valley. McLaren Vale, through the McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association (MVGWTA), was particularly active in the sustainability area.
In McLaren Vale:
In 2006/07, MVGWTA, through Lucy Hyde, Paula Edwards, Richard McGeachy and James Hook, developed codes of conducts for sustainable practices. These codes influenced the chapter content of the later Generational Farming program and included a code of conduct for water use, a code of conduct for soils and a code of conduct for pest and disease. The code of conduct for pest and disease controls advocated integrated pest management (IPM) and outlined a number of practices that were not acceptable in McLaren Vale
In 2007, James Hook (Grower Development Manager at MVGWTA) invited Dr Cliff Ohmart from LODI rules (California) to lecture on sustainability programs.
In 2008, Amy Richards (Grower Development Manager with MVGWTA) initiated conversations about sustainability across the region.
In June 2009, a working group for Generational Farming was formed (Jock Harvey, Derek Cameron, James Hook, Fiona Wood, Tony Hoare, Kevin O’Brien, David Hansen)
In September 2009 Generational Farming launched in McLaren Vale – the first formal sustainability program to be adopted in the region. The program promoted the adoption of best practices in the vineyard using a self-assessment workbook. Jodie Pain was the MVGWTA viticultural officer during the Generational Farming period.
In 2011, Dr Irina Santiago-Brown was employed by MVGWTA as its Sustainability Coordinator to review and refine Generational Farming, drawing upon her experience in viticultural management systems and as a PhD research student at the University of Adelaide in Sustainable Viticulture.
The learnings from Dr Irina Santiago-Brown’s research were applied to improve the assessment methodology of Generational Farming, and, in 2013, MVGWTA re-launched the reviewed and improved Generational Farming program online as Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) with support from the South Australian Government through PIRSA and Wine Australia.
From 2012 to 2015, Belinda Bramley, Industry Development Officer MVGWTA, worked on key regional projects and initiatives pertaining to viticulture, sustainability and the environment.
Chapter 1 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Soil Health, Nutrition & Fertilizer Management, was authored by James Hook and reviewed by Dr Michael McCarthy;
Chapter 2 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Pest and Disease Management, was authored by James Hook and reviewed by Dr Trevor Wicks;
Chapter 3 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Biodiversity Management, was authored by Richard Leask and reviewed by Dr Linda Thomson;
Chapter 4 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Water Management, was authored by Rachel Steer and reviewed by Dr Michael McCarthy;
Chapter 5 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Waste Management, was authored by Giulio Dimasi and Dr Irina Santiago (later Dr Irina Santiago-Brown) and reviewed by Lynda Wedding; and
Chapter 6 of the SAW program workbook, entitled Social (Work, Community and Wineries relations) was authored by Dee Hoad and Dr Irina Santiago (later Dr Irina Santiago-Brown) and reviewed by Dee Hoad and Paul Georgiadis.
From 2015 to 2018, Jennifer Lynch, Tom Harvey and others promoted SAW in other regions and lobbied for the best possible single national program.
From 2016 to 2018, Robyn Groffen, Grower Engagement Officer MVGWTA, coordinated an external review of the SAW chapters and the workbook was updated.
In 2019, MVGWTA transferred content from the SAW program to the AWRI freely and voluntarily to form part of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia for industry use. SAW has always belonged to MVGWTA, and MVGWTA has always been acknowledged in Sustainable Winegrowing Australia materials, together with other organisations that have contributed to the program.
Rachel Williams, Grower Engagement Officer MVGWTA, currently promotes sustainable grape and wine production in McLaren Vale through Sustainable Winegrowing Australia.
In August 2015, the management of Entwine Australia transferred from WFA to the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). At this time, features including the Australian wine carbon calculator and Entwine benchmarking capacity were supported with funds from the Australian Government and best practice management surveys were developed for vineyards and wineries with the support of Treasury Wine Estates.
In 2017, a steering committee with representatives from AWRI, Australian Vignerons, MVGWTA, WFA and Wine Australia agreed to support a review of Australian wine in the global sustainability landscape, which was carried out by Phil Manson (former General Manager – Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand), funded through the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre. Among the key recommendations from this review, Manson recommended the establishment of a single national sustainability program based on the existing SAW workbook and Entwine metrics, supported by robust verification services.
Following the 2017 Manson review, the AWRI and MVGWTA, with support from Wine Australia and Australian Grape & Wine, worked together to develop Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, a united Australian sustainability program. SAW content was provided for inclusion into the new Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program by MVGWTA. Sustainable Winegrowing Australia builds on the strengths of the Entwine Australia and SAW programs and the earlier versions, and the program continues to evolve today.
In July 2019, Sustainable Winegrowing Australia was launched at the 17th AWITC in Adelaide. At that time thanks and acknowledgements were extended to all of those who had contributed to the development of the program, dating back to the 1990s.
In September 2019, AGW established a Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) made up of program users, regional representatives and other key stakeholders, to provide insights and recommendations to AGW on matters relating to sustainability that might impact Australian grape and wine producers. The SAC provides strategic advice in relation to Sustainable Winegrowing Australia.
In 2019/2020, a trust mark for Sustainable Winegrowing Australia was developed by the AWRI and Australian Grape & Wine. This trust mark was made available for certified members of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia in June 2020, and officially launched by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in September 2020.
In 2020, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Australian Grape & Wine, the AWRI and Wine Australia to:
Recognise the importance of sustainability to the ongoing successes of the Australian grape and wine sector
Guide the ongoing collaborative support of the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program
Ensure the aspirations and commitments pertaining to sustainability and articulated in the Australian Grape and Wine Sector Vision 2050 are realised.
The signing of the MOU formalised the governance of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, with the establishment of a Joint Steering Committee (JSC) made up of the Managing Director of the AWRI and the CEOs of Australian Grape & Wine and Wine Australia. AGW’s Sustainability Advisory Committee acts as an advisory body to the JSC in accordance with its terms of reference.