LearnFrom Vine to Glass: Sustainable Winemaking Practices
sustainable vineyard practices

From Vine to Glass: Sustainable Winemaking Practices

At Stanlake Park, we’re passionate about crafting delicious wines while minimising our environmental footprint. In the last few years, we have adopted several sustainable winemaking practices, and we have even more plans for the future.

Growing grapes in a sustainable way

Sustainability can mean different things to different people, but probably the two most popular concepts that spring to mind tend to be organic practices and renewable energy.  In our world, sustainable winemaking practices also means cost saving, too, so sustainability is often in our thoughts with everything we do.  

Some of the most popular questions on the Stanlake Park wine tours relate to organic viticulture and spraying in particular. We would love to never spray the vines as it’s time-consuming and expensive, but in the English climate it is an absolute necessity to combat fungal diseases – otherwise, we would have not have a single bunch of grapes to harvest at the end of the year.

However, we do reduce the amount of sprays used to the very minimum, use organic products and only spray when there is a possibility of an issue, and not based on a calendar. We also introduce a lot of canopy management to our vineyard – this means investing many hours individually removing leaves to expose the grape bunches to the sunshine, thus reducing fungal diseases pressure. 

Spraying doesn’t always need to involve tractors and diesel – in fact, you will often see us spraying manually with heavy back-packs, and this is one of the toughest jobs in the vineyard, walking around 10 acres of vines with a 25kg pack on your back!

Woolly workforce

Some people are very surprised when they see sheep fenced in the actual vineyards rather than in the fields. The sheep at Stanlake Park are of the Shropshire breed and have a reputation for not harming the vines. We allow the sheep to graze around the vines to save us time and effort with grass mowing and it reduces costs of tractor fuel, thus being a great sustainable vineyard practice. It also has the advantage of adding natural fertiliser, too! 

If you watched the BBC programme ‘Countryfile’ you may remember one episode that used sheep fleeces at the foot of the vines to retain heat and add nutrients, helping the ripening process. We have been trialling this in our Ruscombe Vineyard but we have yet to evaluate the results. 

Reducing the impact of wine packaging

There is much that can be done to achieve good winemaking practices, especially in terms of packaging. Reusing, indeed, can be much more sustainable than recycling.

Following the success of last year’s harvest, we estimate that we will produce approximately 50k bottles of Stanlake Park wine this year. If we put those bottles into cardboard boxes and pallets, in fact, it would mean the waste of a substantial number of cardboard boxes.  Instead, we label in batches, on demand, and reuse the same cardboard boxes over and over again until they’re not fit for purpose (fall apart!). Big companies, instead, would bottle and box all their production at the same time, and keep the wines in a warehouse in pallets, so each box will be used just once. This is just another example of a sustainable winemaking practice and reduction of waste. It’s not just about recycling cardboard, it’s best not to use it at all!  

We always use natural cork in our bottling process and whilst the corks cannot be reused, we do have other uses for them.  We often get brides asking for them to use as wedding decorations and they look great when they are slit and hold place names – ideal for a vineyard wedding. Other requests are from schools and ‘crafters’ who have many artistic uses for the corks such as fridge magnets and table decorations. 

As our labels are renowned for being pretty and ‘eye-catching’, customers love to use our bottles as vases or candle holders especially when cut down to a good size. We have teamed up with a small local artisan, who makes bottle vases and upcycled candles for us, which you can purchase on our Cellar Shop or online. 

Less means more
sustainable packaging

A foil-less bottle of The Reserve

We believe in making small changes that, collectively, create a significant impact. For instance, most wine bottles have foil on top of the cork, but is that necessary? With the advance of cork technology, and especially for wines that are not meant to be kept for decades, there is no practical use of the bottle foils and it’s just another piece of something that goes to the landfill. As a consequence, at Stanlake Park we have stopped using foils in our still bottles, and you will stop seeing them gradually as our current stock runs out. 

It is somewhat different with the sparkling wine foils (called capsules) as their use is currently a requirement of law, although this too may change in the future.

However, to make this sustainable effort worthwile, it is important than consumers and wine drinkers stop and think: would you be willing to embrace a simpler look for a more sustainable future? Both producers and consumers must become part of the solution. 

A future of sustainability

As we look for further improvements, we have a programme of replacing our larger machinery with electrical options, and we have already done that for our forklift and lawn mowers. Solar panels have also been installed as we move to more modern and sustainable options going forward. We also recycle all of our packaging and make use of packaging sent to us, which not only reduces waste but also saves costs. Both of these go hand in hand, which is essential if we are to continue to be a sustainable and profitable business.

Passionate about music, craft beer and wine but loves travel and food too especially Staffordshire oatcakes!