NZ Organic Wine Awards: Sustainable Vineyard of the year 2015: Kaimira Estate

For 2015 we introduced a new accolade to our arsenal, the sustainable vineyard of the year.  Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)  maintains and checks (through external audits) a hugely credible system to ensure that accredited vineyards follow a ‘best practice model of environmental practices in the vineyard and winery’, as well as assuring the consumer (and local stakeholders) that their concerns towards the environment are being addressed and environmental impact is minimised. With that said, we think that it is important to recognise that many vineyards partaking in the ‘NZ Organic Wine Awards’ go far above and beyond the expectations set out by this scheme- and in turn wanted to recognise this.

The debut ‘NZ Organic Wine Awards Sustainable Vineyard of the Year’ was awarded to Kaimira Estate, which is just outside of Brightwater Village in Nelson, owned and operated by June Hamilton and Ian Miller. It was evident from the vineyard’s submission that they take a huge responsibility for the environmental impact that their winegrowing has on the land, and make every effort possible to minimise this. In addition to this accolade Kaimira also won 6 medals for their wine throughout the awards.



Kaimira Estate’s solar powered golf buggy

An important part of minimising environmental impact, is to fully understand the impact you are having, and carbon emissions (a vineyards carbon footprint) is a great way to start. As of 2015 Kaimira Estate calculated (using internationally recognised protocols) that the carbon cost of producing their 130,000 bottles of wine annually is 40 tonnes of carbon per year. Once the carbon figure is established efforts can be made to offset this carbon using a variety of means, it was these efforts that impressed our panel.

Kaimira Estate offsets its carbon with the purchase of certified wind power credits, using solar heated water for all hot water demands at the vineyard and use of a solar powered golf buggy to travel around the vineyard (as pictured above). The vineyard produces its own compost, graze sheep between rows of vines as opposed to a diesel power tractor- and even include the methane produced by these sheep in their greenhouse gas calculations!

Sheep grazing in winter

Kaimira estate include their sheep’s methane in their carbon emission calculations.

We aren’t the first people to recognise Kaimira’s valiant efforts with regard to their sustainability, they were one of the first 100 global businesses recognised by the UN as ‘certified carbon neutral’, and were named Sustainable Business of the Year for the Southern and Central regions of NZ in 2012.

Catching up with June Hamilton recently, she revealed further refinements that they have made to their winemaking process since receiving the award last August. They have now set their focus on energy reduction, and rigorous auditing of power usage, Kaimira have  set a target kilowatt usage per litre of wine produced and are working towards this. Water is also an important resource during the winemaking process- the estate last year only drew 5% of its water take allowance thanks to their efficient irrigation scheme and water recycling process.

June also reiterated that being a ‘sustainable’ business includes more than just environmental impact and carbon reduction, but also includes being an active part of the local community. A role which the vineyard takes seriously, including displaying local artist work at the cellar door, granting an easement to allow a cycle path to use the boundary of one of their vineyards, supporting the young enterprise scheme and also setting aside a huge 1.7 hectares of potential vineyard as a natural wildlife habitat and woodland regeneration area.

Congratulations once again to Kaimira/Brightwater estate, an inspiration to all vineyards striving for greater sustainability. If you do have a chance to drop in whilst in the Nelson region, details of their cellar door can be found here –, I am sure that June, Ian, or one of the team will be more than happy to show you some of their energy saving schemes in practice, and share tastings of their award winning wines.

Art on display at the cellar door by a local Nelson artist.

Art on display at the cellar door by a local Nelson artist.