How Tamburlaine wines became carbon neutral

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATamburlaine Wines was established in 1966 by Cessnock doctor Lance Allen. In 1985 the winery was purchased by a small group of friends and relatives led by managing director and chief winemaker Mark Davidson, who has maintained a pioneering vision that has turned Tamburlaine into Australia’s largest organic wine producer.

After a long period of vineyard observation and trials, in 2002 Tamburlaine took the first steps toward organic certification for some of its Hunter Valley, NSW blocks. This meant a full management program, which replaced synthetic chemicals, improved soil organic matter and stimulated the vines’ natural defences. After a three-year conversion period it received A-grade certified organic status for the first blocks and has since extended the certification to all sites.

Carrying the Australian Certified Organic logo on labels requires rigorous annual audits by the certifier to ensure the absence of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers in the production of the wines.

Tamburlaine has undergone a significant transformation in the 27 years since the Hunter winery was acquired from its original owner. It now has organic and biodynamic vineyards in the Hunter Valley and the Orange highlands of NSW. Its 93-hectare Orange property has also integrated biodynamic methods into its organic management system and is one of the largest certified organic vineyards in the Southern Hemisphere.

In line with its sustainable farming practices Tamburlaine has adopted an Environment Management System (EMS) for the Hunter winery, including strategies for its water and solid-waste management, energy saving and environmental purchasing.

Using half the energyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More recent attention to energy efficiency has reduced Tamburlaine’s annual energy consumption in the business to half, saving nearly 740 tonnes of carbon pollution and more than $110,000 per annum. The improvements are ongoing.

Tamburlaine is now the first carbon neutral winemaker in the country, with its recent entry into trading carbon credits. The future will hopefully see fewer credits required, with the expectation that one day the extra carbon-fixing capacity of organic vineyards will be recognised as offsets for wineries’ day-to-day activities.

In addition to its own vineyards, Tamburlaine contracts two other sizeable vineyards – one in Orange and one in the Hunter. Approximately 70 per cent of the winery’s total crush comes from the 123 hectares in Orange and the remainder comes from 40 hectares of Hunter Valley vineyards.

It produces 30 per cent of its wine for the international market and 70 per cent for the domestic market. Its major export markets are China, Nepal, Sweden, the US, Japan and Korea.

The winery continues to push the boundaries of innovation in organic farming to create high-quality wine that best represents the terroir – where the wine is grown ­– naturally. The Tamburlaine approach is resonating with more and more consumers and wine critics alike, with the winery holding a red five-star rating in James Halliday’s 2012 Australian Wine Companion. Seven of its wines were given 94 points for outstanding quality. It produces one million bottles a year.

How it saved some energy

Winery production processes produce wastewater that requires aeration prior to reuse for irrigation.

Conventional aeration systems can contribute to a high percentage of a business’s energy costs. Tamburlaine researched new technologies to reduce the energy for aeration of wastewater and installed a more energy efficient aeration system from biological wastewater company For Earth.

The winery had existing 2 x 15kW mechanical surface aerators. For Earth installed a low energy sub-surface diffuser system comprising the For Earth micro-bubble diffuser, supplied ambient air by a 3.0kW side channel blower.

The system was installed in January 2010 and has shown significant energy savings, improved water quality and operational cost reductions. Added benefits have been reduced noise pollution and biodiversity improvements such as a return of birdlife to the dam.

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