Whilst our corner of Sussex is a priority, our commitment to sustainability goes beyond. As a grower-producer, we believe we have a duty to contribute to sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation on a wider scale.
This, alongside our status as a B Corp, means that we’ve spent a great deal of time researching and actioning ways in which we can make our business more sustainable; from the vineyard and winemaking practices to the way we package and deliver our wine.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is defined as farming land in a way that not only protects it, but also protects the wider environment, now and for future generations. Examples of sustainable agriculture include using renewable resources, encouraging pollination, and avoiding chemical pest controls and fertilisers where possible.
What is Environmental Conservation?
Environmental conservation refers to not only the protection, preservation and maintenance of existing habitats, ecosystems and environments, but also to restore old ones, and build new ecological communities that can thrive into the future.
How Can Vineyards Contribute to Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Conservation?
The species that can thrive alongside our vines are always a source of wonder for all at Rathfinny, so we know what it means for a site to be biodiverse – and we’ve certainly learned a thing or two along the way.
The encouragement of grass and wildflower growth between the vines is a fantastic way to do this. It increases insect populations, encourages birds, bees and pollinators, increases organic matter, and reduces fuel use so mowing is much less frequent.
Developing habitats around the Vineyard is important too, from the diverse planting of flowers, shrubs and trees, to installing beehives. We’re always finding new ways to tread carefully on the land. For instance, for the past couple of years, we’ve hosted a zero-waste charity run on the Vineyard. Instead of gifting t-shirts, runners have the option to plant a tree on the Estate instead.
Something we’ve worked on with The Animal and Plant Health Agency here at Rathfinny that contributes to the biodiversity in the area is the implementation of badger surveys and TB (Tuberculosis) vaccinations. This keeps the rates low, goes some way to protecting the cattle herds of neighbouring farmers, and demonstrates an alternative to badger culling.
Embrace Alternative Fuels
Like traditional farmers, wine estates need a certain amount of vehicle power to go about their everyday activities, from grass mowing and staff transport around the estate, to local deliveries and guest services.
However, whilst this vehicle use is unavoidable, the fuel used can be switched, which is why we’re now seeing an increase in fuel-efficient and electric vehicles around vineyards – even tractors.
The use of solar and wind power where possible in and around the estate is obviously another way that wine estates can make a difference and bolster their contribution to sustainable agriculture. We worked with a local energy cooperative in Brighton to install solar panels to power our Cellar, Winery and Bottling buildings.
Reduce Reliance on Chemical Fertilisers
Excessive use of chemical fertilisers can reduce the amount of organic matter in the soil through soil acidification and soil crust, as well as impacting the pH of the soil (a vital element in our job) and even releasing greenhouse gases. It is good to explore fertiliser alternatives that do not cause this harm. For example, here at Rathfinny, we use organic certified seaweed extract from a UK source when we can.
Of course, if you do use chemical fertiliser, it’s important to ensure that any chemical container waste is recycled at an approved facility.
Even when we look away from the Vineyard itself, there are still plenty of areas in which we can contribute to sustainable agriculture and environmental conversation, and one of these is packaging.
We want our Sussex Sparkling wines to reach their destination in the best possible condition, and there are ways of doing this that help protect the environment. Some of the initiatives we’ve implemented here at Rathfinny include:
- All production waste such as caps, bidules, cardboard and plastic film is collected, sorted and recycled.
- Remove polypropylene strapping for deliveries.
- Removing plastic in e-commerce packaging and using recyclable cardboard instead.
Make Changes in Other Areas of the Vineyard, Including Staffing and Administration
We believe that small changes in all areas of our business add up to a vineyard that will last for years to come and result in a more mindful workforce that are committed to our goals. These changes could look like:
- Cutting down on paper use and instead using digital contracts, and signposting customers to the website for more information as opposed to printed materials.
- Investing in a waste removal contractor with a similar stance on the environment, who ensure that they recycle as much as possible, responsibly dispose of hazardous waste and PPE, and can collect other items like batteries, coffee pods, and printer cartridges.
- Install electric car charging points.
- Switch to refillable cleaning products and toiletries.
- Composting food waste, biodegradable vegetation and, if possible, paper waste.
B Corp Certification
To cement the commitment to sustainable activities across viticulture, winemaking and running a successful business, becoming a B Corp is an option. This certification means the business is obliged to consider the impact of all decisions on staff, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
We’re beyond pleased that Rathfinny is now a B Corp. In fact, we are the first sparkling wine grower-producer in the world to achieve this status. Whilst we are proud of this achievement, we know that this is a lifelong commitment, and one we’re taking extremely seriously.
Enjoy English Sparkling Wine from a Sustainable Sussex Wine Estate
We know that for many, where their food and drink comes from is important. When you enjoy a glass of Rathfinny English Sparkling wine, you know that the team behind it are dedicated to the sustainability of its production.
Making sure that the estate we love so much is future-proofed, as well as contributing to a more sustainable world, is something that has become vitally important to the whole team here at Rathfinny. In an industry that makes us practice patience, we know the difference that careful, considered changes can make further down the line.