How the Alentejo wine industry wants to change the national paradigm

With little fuss, the Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP) was launched in 2015. This voluntary membership initiative is promoted by the Alentejo Regional Wine Commission (CVRA) and is aimed at grape and wine producers in the Alentejo region. The WASP content was developed by a working group that involved producers from Alentejo, University of Évora, and the Technical Association of Viticulturists from Alentejo, including a consultation phase with CVRA members for suggestions and comments on the content.

The main pillars of this Program are related to the reduction of costs and the increase of the economic viability of producers, based on the incentive of proactivity in relation to the increase of environmental pressures, responding equally to social concerns. Thus, no improvements are suggested that could jeopardize the economic viability of the business. In reality, we are not talking about costs but about investments, as a general rule for optimizing processes, increasing efficiencies, and consequently reducing costs and direct savings at the economic level.

Of course, being the environment, the base on which the wine-growing activity is based, it has an important role in any sustainability strategy, being perhaps its most visible and mediatic part. WASP works at the level of eco-efficiency and cleaner production, promoting best practices in terms of good water and energy management, always in line with the premises of reduction, reuse and recycling (premises that extend far beyond the mere management of waste).

In the countryside, good soil management is promoted, the reduction in the use of phytopharmaceuticals, the use of auxiliary organisms, the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, the conservation and restoration of water lines, the use of integrated production methods and biological. At the winery, energy efficiency and the rational use of water are a priority, but also the reduction of waste produced. The dematerialization of processes is promoted, as well as the use of greener products, such as corks, barrels and other materials from certified forests.

The training of employees is encouraged so that they also realize that the companies' efforts for sustainability go far beyond the vineyard or the winery, accompanying them when they return to their families. And here we start talking about the social component of WASP. Continuous training works, as well as issues related to hygiene and safety, the involvement of the whole team in strategic decisions at the operational level, the synergies between wineries and surrounding communities, and the leading role that this agroindustry has in the regional socio-economy .

Currently, WASP has 383 members, with prospects for continued growth in the coming years. In terms of planted vineyard area, these members (out of 1800 winegrowers and 280 wineries) represent approximately 47% of the vineyard area registered with CVRA, meaning that the main players are in our ranks.

As indicated above, WASP, through the suggestion of good practices, has, among others, contributed to a reduction of up to 30% in energy consumption in several producers, or reductions of 20% in water consumption. We are increasing recycling rates and promoting a circular economy with 38% of our members converting organic waste into compost for application as a fertilizer in the field. 43% of our members have already implemented irrigation management plans, which allows them to use water much more efficiently, and 62% monitor water consumption.

Even at the level of employees, 33% of our members created a group dedicated to the implementation of more sustainable practices in their companies. In relation to the ratio of liter of water, liter of wine, we have producers who have already reached impressive savings values, standing at 1.2l of water per 1l of wine, while others, when they started their involvement with WASP, were at approximately 14l, and today 4 years later, they have already managed to reduce it to 5l per 1l of wine.

In the near future, WASP wants to continue to grow in number of members, with a third-party certification from WASP, to arrive as early as 2020, and the scheduled release later this year, of electronic tools for members to determine footprints. water and carbon dioxide, measuring the impact of the implemented practices.

Vinhos do Alentejo 2022