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Villa Maria has been a longtime leader in the New Zealand wine industry’s sustainability efforts, but now this award-winning producer is doubling down. This year, Villa Maria is launching EarthGarden, a true embodiment of the winery’s deep commitment to a multifaceted sustainability philosophy—and an example of how sustainable viticulture can create vibrant, flavorful wines.
Delicious wines begin with healthy soil, which is why Villa Maria’s holistic approach to viticulture starts with the earth. The winery’s organic vineyards are free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, with the team instead choosing to invite nature back into the vineyard and encourage a diverse ecosystem of plants, insects, and microorganisms. In the winter, Villa Maria plants seeds for cover crops like oats, mustard, buckwheat, peas, and clover to germinate in the spring and add nutrition to the soil.
Villa Maria also plants hundreds of kilos of wildflower seeds between the vineyard rows, resulting in hundreds of thousands of wildflowers—a practice that inspires the EarthGarden label itself. This attracts bees and beneficial insects that control pests and bugs that could harm the vines themselves, which is just another example of working with nature rather than against it.
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In addition to creating and welcoming biodiversity in its vineyards, Villa Maria employs other soil health practices, such as composting, which is also a useful way to recycle grape pressings into the vineyard. In the winter, weeds are managed using sheep, followed by undervine mowing or cultivation—techniques that have been made less invasive with new technology, which uses sensors to work around vine trunks and trellising without damaging them.
The vegan-friendly EarthGarden wines may be new, but Villa Maria’s journey in sustainable farming isn’t; they were a founding member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand and have been farming organically since 1999. (Though the EarthGarden wines are certified organic through Bio Gro in New Zealand, they won’t be labeled as organic in the U.S. due to a lack of equivalency in organic standards.)
The winery is continuously searching for ways to reduce its impact on the environment, working from a core mission to care for the earth we all share. Many of these goals are ambitious: by 2025, Villa Maria plans to send zero waste to the landfill. But they’ve already made leaps towards mitigating their environmental impact, having reduced carbon emissions by 39 percent for each bottle of wine through practices like sourcing packaging for all Villa Maria wines within 14 miles of its Auckland Estate; they aim to reach a 50 percent reduction in five years. The EarthGarden wine range also marks a significant step towards the target to manage all Villa Maria-owned vineyards organically by 2030.
Though Villa Maria has integrated sustainability into its core values for decades, EarthGarden now comes at a time when producer and consumer philosophies on farming and wine production are aligning. Consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainable wines as they become more aware of their personal health, environmental health, and the ongoing effects of climate change.
Value-conscious buyers and consumers can feel good about the new EarthGarden Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both of which are fresh and delicious expressions of their Marlborough home.