Witnessing the harm on viticulture from extreme weather and intensive farming, a new non-profit group – Regenerative Viticulture Foundation (RVF) – has been launched with the aim to restore soil health in global vineyards.
On 30 March, the RVF held its inaugural event with a panel discussion and fundraiser hosted by renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson MW, founder of “Wine anorak” Dr Jamie Goode and the RVF Trustees at 67 Pall Mall, a London-based private wine club founded in 2015.
Founded in 2021, the RVF is the first regenerative viticulture network gathering viticulturists and wine industry players to promote biodiversity in viticulture on a global scale.
The event has brought together wine industrial leaders to discuss the urgent need towards a regenerative future in wine, including Stephen Cronk, the mastermind behind the RVF and the Co-Founder of Maison Mirabeau in Provence; Mimi Casteel, one of the RVF Trustees and owner of Hope Well Wine in Oregon; and Miguel Torres, the fifth generation winemaker of Spain’s leading winery Familia Torres.
In the event, Stephen Cronk shared how he witnessed extreme weather conditions ranging from frost to forest fire during his days in managing Maison Mirabeau since 2019.
Cronk said that one of the most important ways to fight climate change is through “‘unlearning” current approaches to land stewardship.
He also saw how the soil quality in Maison Mirabeau had deteriorated after generations of intensive farming, despite it being surrounded by protected natural parkland.
During his search for an organisation that could accompany the vineyard’s regeneration journey, he noticed a notable lack of an organisation that focuses on the subject on a global scale. The RVF was therefore founded to correct the omission and provide help to worldwide producers that practise regenerative viticulture.
Mimi Casteel, another trustee of the RVF warned in the event that the world is “in a state of agricultural emergency” after generations of intensive farming.
Being one of the pioneers to raise awareness towards climate change in the wine industry, Casteel is well-known for adopting a “no-till” farming practice in her vineyard in Oregon to tackle climate change and decades of ecological damage by restoring natural cycles in the soil.
“As stewards of our land, it is our responsibility to undo the ecological damage by supporting the organic matter that composes healthy soils and strengthening the wider ecosystems they are part of. This holistic approach to bringing natural balance back to our working lands is what ‘regenerative’ means to us, and we believe that wine – with its innate sense of terroir – can lead the way.”
However, Miguel Torres from Familia Torres acknowledged that new regenerative practices can increase costs during the event, “It takes four to 10 years to get to the point where the ecosystem is stable,” he said.
Familia Torres is known for their notable efforts in promoting sustainable viticulture. In 2020, the winery has reduced its carbon emissions per bottle by 30% compared to 2008 levels, and now targets to achieve zero net emissions by 2040.
To support the producers, the RVF has gathered eight representatives from Australia, Denmark, France, the UK and the USA to work across five key areas of activity: connect, research, support, educate and promote.
Although the RVF will not offer an accreditation programme, it will serve to guide producers on their journey to restore vineyards from the impacts of intensive farming.
The foundation is also encouraging interested parties to sign up to the mailing list and seeking pledges to fund its first round of research and resources.
“Any of us who have children, know children or have grandchildren will be aware that we are leaving this planet in a pretty terrible way and must do as much as we can to fight that,” said Jancis Robinson MW.
“I love the fact that this foundation is dedicated to improving soil health and biodiversity, and I’m utterly convinced there is an urgent need for this central point so people around the world can discuss regenerative viticulture, share experiences and encourage cooperation, which is so sorely needed.” she added.