Seifried's and Sustainability

New Zealand is a land known for its wide open spaces, natural beauty and innovative people. While a relatively young country, New Zealand's natural environment is something that can't be taken for granted. With this comes the NZ wine industry's commitment to looking after this special slice of paradise.

Seifried Estate is proud to be a member of 'Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand' and was an early adopter of the programme when both the winery and vineyard auditing programmes were first established in the New Zealand wine industry in the mid 1990's.

Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) is an industry initiative directed through New Zealand Winegrowers which was developed to provide a 'best practice' model of environmental practices in the vineyard and winery. It encourages wine producers to deliver excellence in their wines in a way that considers the natural environment, business aspects and communities involved.

The programme aims to deliver a framework for viticultural and winemaking practices that protects the environment while efficiently and economically producing premium wine grapes and wine. The programme includes an external audit structure that has integrity and rigour to meet market expectations.

Here is just a taste of some of Seifried's processes around sustainability -

  • Although New Zealand is an island nation, water is viewed very much as a precious and limited resource. In 2002, Hermann identified the need for water self-sufficiency at the Brightwater vineyard. Along with a team of engineers, Hermann designed and developed a huge 170,000mᶟ dam which collects rain water during the winter months. During the growing season, a computer controlled irrigation programme, gravity feeds this stored water back to the vineyard throughout the long, dry summer months when water restrictions are often in place. The Brightwater vineyard is a 70 hectare vineyard which was developed in 1999. As most southern Seifried vineyard location, the Brightwater block is tucked beneath the Richmond ranges and is the most sheltered of all Seifried sites. The stony, gravelly soils mean water stress can be an issue during the warm Nelson summers so having water collection storage facilities means water shortage should never become an issue.
  • In the vineyard, Seifried Estate aims to make every tractor pass down the vineyard row as multi-functional and efficient as possible. For example, while trimming the vineyard canopy (prior to bird-netting) in January, each row is trimmed and mowed together - rather than two separate tractor passes. This minimises soil compaction, carbon footprint, fuel use and optimises efficiency.
  • Lightweight tractors in the vineyard means a reduction in soil compaction and greater soil aeration.
  • Consistent monitoring of weather and soil conditions throughout the vineyards enables Seifried to manage use of machinery in the vineyards to avoid work during wet conditions, which could upset soil structure.
  • Identifying potential vineyard locations where spring frosts are improbable is key to Seifried's strategy for vineyard development. The use of helicopters to protect against spring frosts is not necessary at Seifried vineyard locations (or indeed in Nelson vineyard sites).
  • Even the winery food scraps from the staffroom are collected and fed to Seifried's very own worm farm. The fabulously rich 'worm juice' and the beautifully composted worm soil is used in the rose garden around the Seifried winery and cellar door.
  • Seifried Estate is focused on reducing energy output wherever possible. All fermentation and storage tanks are inside the winery which helps maintain a median ambient temperature without the fluctuations of environmental changes that would affect outside tanks. This offers significant energy savings by not having to maintain cooling during the hot summer months.
  • Computer controlled fermentation facilities enable Seifried to input optimal pre-defined fermentation temperatures, or ranges, which then activates cooling when the tank fermentation reaches the outer range. Energy efficiency is enhanced as each of the fermentation tanks connects to a computer system where winemakers can pre-define temperatures.
  • Seifried recently modified the refrigeration system used to enable tank warming as well. This function is required from time to time to lift wine temperature prior to bottling during cooler winter months. This feature eliminates the need to pump and circulate wine prior to bottling therefore minimising handling and non-essential energy being used in preparation of the wine for bottling.
  • Heating water is a major cost for any winery and this is an area Seifried are committed to limiting and finding alternative sources to heat water. Seifried capture and heat water on the back of their cooling system and this works very efficiently.
  • The addition of sheep to Seifried's workforce is a practice that began back in the early 1990's, well before it became fashionable. Originally brought in prior to winter pruning, the sheep help control weeds and tidy up between and under the rows, while also leaving behind their very useful dung - a great natural fertiliser. As a result, the sheep also eliminate the need for unnecessary tractor traffic through the vineyard, lessening the soil compaction as well as reducing diesel usage and staff hours carrying out these tasks. These days Seifried have extended sheep use into spring, for grass and weed control - again eliminating mower traffic. Later in the season, between fruit set and veraison, sheep enjoy grazing on the canopy leaves around the fruit zone. This improves sun and air movement around bunches, which in turn assists ripening, as well as helping with disease prevention.
  • Since 2008, Seifried Estate has been a registered member of New Zealand's Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE). This is a programme initiated by the New Zealand government as part of New Zealand's efforts to support our Pacific Island neighbours and help the NZ rural sector to develop and retain consistent seasonal staff. Seifried Estate is very proud to support 40 Solomon Island and Tongan staff for up to a seven months during winter and spring. This opportunity for regular and consistent work to earn money which is then taken home to help their own rural communities. This hard-working team view the opportunity to come to New Zealand as a privilege and use their short time with Seifried to earn as much money as they can to invest into developing their communities and even set up small businesses at home. In 2013 three vehicles were purchased and shipped to Honiara, which were then used as taxis for family members in the country's capital city. Additionally, solar panels, photocopiers and a range of IT items have also been shipped home to help support local schools in the village.
  • Seifried's philosophy behind vineyard chemical use is far more 'reactive' than ever before. Seifried's spray regime works on seasonal requirements, rather than historical need. While Seifried still use herbicides and fungicides when required, their use is based on monitoring to see when a 'problem' presents itself before working out a plan to best combat.
  • Seifried chemical use in the winery for cleaning is minimised as far as possible without compromising on cleanliness and hygiene. The use of stainless steel and easy clean non-slip flooring means much of the cleaning is done with high pressure water and brushes - the old fashioned way.
  • Seifried is always mindful of ways to substitute the use of chemicals and products with processes. An example of this is using a centrifuge and crossflow filtration to eliminate the need for processing aids such as diatomaceous earth.
  • From growing grapes to making, marketing and distributing Seifried wines, there are a number of by-products which are brought about by daily activities. In an effort to minimise and manage waste, Seifried have found a number of ways that these by-products can be recycled for a clean and sustainable result. With around 75% yield from grapes during processing, there is a significant amount of grape must (skins and seeds) remaining after each press cycle. This is fed out to a neighbouring dairy farm, as well as to Hermann's own cattle. This is a real treat for the stock - although care must be taken in the quantities fed out... too much can result in a sore tummy for the animal!
  • When pallets of bottles arrive, each layer is separated by a 'layer-board'. These boards are collected and reused either in-house for bottling or returned to the glass manufacturer. The pallets are either reused for unlabelled stock or returned to the bottle supplier for reuse.
  • While Seifried love the efficiency of machine harvesting 98% of the vines, it does happen from time to time that a harvester or tractor driver bumps a post. To maintain a strong canopy, broken posts are replaced during the dormant winter season. Broken posts are reused for general fencing (where the height of the post is much shorter than the required height for vineyard trellis) or garden edging.
  • Recycling of packaging and containers is achieved by returning clean used containers to the agrecovery recycling programme.
  • Waste glass is recycled onsite using a glass crusher, which turns glass bottles into a fine powder. This is then used on vineyard driveways to repair potholes.
  • During the quality control checks at bottling, a number of sealed bottles are removed from the line to check for screw cap tension (ensuring a good, but easily broken seal for the consumer). This means a small amount of wastage of the screw caps. With recycling in mind, these are collected and returned as recycled scrap metal.
  • Some canopy sprays are recycled especially when sprayed out shortly after budburst. This minimises active ingredient wastage as well as water. Hermann Seifried developed and built a recycling sprayer for this purpose several decades ago before others considered this approach.
  • Waste plastic is baled onsite and taken to Christchurch where it is recycled into road cones, irrigation pipes and other plastic goods.
  • Waste cardboard is collected and taken to the Nelson recycling depot.
  • Diligent monitoring and reporting of energy usage and costs is compared against industry bench marking and Seifried continuously try to better performance by setting targets below what was used for the same period the year prior.
  • While a number of tasks around the vineyard are seasonal, Seifried encourage as much repeat recruitment of staff from season to season. Returning winter vineyard pruners and tractor/truck drivers during harvest ensure a core team of staff who know the job and the processes followed at Seifried Estate.
  • Customer service is a huge part of Seifried's point of difference. Offering a quick turnaround, particularly for export orders is a core feature of the business which is notably impressive given Seifried is working with such a large number of international destinations. Seifried Estate has its own onsite bottling and warehousing facilities and with careful forecasting are able to bottle large runs of wine, with a portion being bottled without labels, which are then easily labelled out as export orders are received. Using Seifried's own onsite labelling facilities the business can then work quickly to have the correct wine, with country specific labels, labelled and ready for dispatch promptly. This means shorter lead times for shipping deadlines, as bottling scheduling generally isn't required.
  • Sustainability in the wine industry is about making fabulous, memorable wines in a way that allows not only the natural environment but also businesses and communities to thrive too.