In 1987, the United Nations released the Brundtland Report, which defines sustainable development as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

The South African wine industry has become a world leader in production integrity, an important dimension of which is the focus on sustainability through the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme, an industry-wide, technical system of sustainable wine production. Compliance with the scheme provides buyers with a guarantee that grape production was undertaken with due consideration of the environment, and that the wine was produced in an environmentally responsible manner and is safe for the consumer.

Certification of compliance falls under the jurisdiction of the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), with a dedicated IPW office responsible for administering the scheme ever since it was promulgated in 1998 under the Liquor Products Act, 1989. This means that the South African wine producers have been practising IPW for well over a decade, long before competitive wine industries started waving the sustainability banner. The reason that South Africa started so early is because many of our wine producers also farm apples, pears and plums for export, and UK supermarkets insisted on the introduction of the integrated production of fruit as early as the mid-1990s. Key lessons learnt from this were then adopted by our wine industry.

IPW guidelines & compliance

IPW consists of a set of guidelines specifying good agricultural practices related to grape production (farm component), as well as a set of guidelines specifying good manufacturing practices related to wine production (winery component) and packaging activities (bottling activities). Compliance with IPW can be related to the different activities (farm, winery and bottling) separately or in combination.

Key elements of the IPW scheme are that withholding periods of agrochemicals may not be exceeded; no unregistered chemicals may be used; non-permitted residues may not be present in grapes; introduction of natural predators in vineyards; and all relevant legislation pertaining to cultivation of virgin soil (including environmental impact assessments), registration and treatment of water use, and all aspects related to the health and safety of workers, and the handling, storage and disposal of agrochemicals and empty containers, must be complied with.

Compliance with the IPW guidelines is assessed on an annual basis through the completion of a self-evaluation questionnaire and is independently audited. Independent auditors appointed by the WSB audit farms and wineries on a random basis over a three-year cycle. In order for cellars to be IPW accredited, they must have a rigorous and recorded IPW system in place with all the farms that supply them with grapes.

The WSB currently runs two certification systems: Wine of Origin (WO) and IPW. For WO, a certification seal has been in existence for many years, but there has never been a seal for the much younger IPW system for sustainable, environmentally friendly production. After wide consultation it was decided to make an alternative seal, which covers both WO and IPW, available as from the 2010 harvest year. To qualify for the new seal, every link in the supply chain has to be IPW accredited – the farm, the winery and the bottling plant. The new seal is linked all the way back to the SAWIS authority to press grapes (BG1) as explained in the section on Integrity.

IPW complies with international wine industry environmental sustainability criteria, including the Global Wine Sector Environmental Sustainability Principles as published by the International Federation of Wine and Spirits (FIVS) and the OIV Guidelines for Sustainable Viti-viniculture: Production, processing and packaging of products as published by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

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