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It’s difficult to see how sustainable a winery really is from the outside. When you visit Nieto Senetiner in the leafy district of Vistalba in Mendoza, it looks like it is perfectly environmentally friendly. The birds are singing in the olive trees, the vineyards are full of life, and Nieto Senetiner is homed in a beautifully restored old winery. However, we all know that it is what’s underneath that counts for green credentials.
the beautiful manor house that houses the winery
As winner of the Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices in Mendoza’s Great Wine Capital Awards last year, I wanted to know what was truly behind Nieto Senetiner’s win and how this historical producer is making its future count.
Like many wineries in Mendoza, Nieto Senetiner relies heavily on grape producers. It buys almost 90% of its grapes from independent producers in the area, which in itself is an important part of sustaining the local economy. Working with so many different producers can also make it quite tricky to keep on top of their sustainable practices. Which is why Nieto Senetiner have developed their own system of constant self-evaluation of the viticulture, soil management and irrigation management for each of the vineyards they work with.
Within the winery too, the use of water and energy is carefully measured and strategically reduced each year. Although the snowy Andes mountains might lead you to believe otherwise, water in Mendoza is a scarce resource. Nieto Senetiner have been focusing on recycling water in the winery, and also in the vineyard.
Traditionally all the vineyards in Mendoza were flood irrigated. However Nieto Senetiner has been through a period of conversion, switching to drip irrigation which has allowed them to save 50% of their water usage - significantly decreasing their water footprint.
As well as measuring their inputs, the company has implemented a system of measuring all their outputs: in emissions in the vineyards, in the winery, and waste materials. As you can imagine after spending a day at a popular wine tasting room like Nieto Senetiner’s, there are a lot of empty bottles and used napkins to clear up. Today they have a recycling program for all their empty containers - in whatever part of the production, or the enjoyment, of wine. For all the savings they make through recycling, they donate 20% to two local charities specialising in paediatrics and child care.
This leads me on to what I discovered is one of the most important pillars of Nieto Senetiner’s sustainability program: investing in people. Training is one of their main focuses. Not only do they train their 198 employees, but they also train the grape producers and suppliers they work with. Last year they ran workshops in environmental care clocking up to 245 hours, and 894 hours of workshops on security and hygiene. Education is key to long term success of sustainable policies.
The winery has also been investing in the surrounding community, those living in Mendoza. The winery donates time, money and logistics to several local charities, mainly involving the education and care of children - the future generation of winemakers, grape pickers and wine drinkers.
And charity in Mendoza’s wine region can be quite fun. Just last week the winery hosted a special outdoor cinema event to raise money for Fundavita, a cancer charity for children. Sitting in the vineyard watching the sunset, and enjoying a glass of Malbec, before an outdoor screening at a pop-up cinema is certainly a great way to give to charity and enjoy the wine region. And it seems like Nieto Senetiner have managed to strike that balance - between sustainability and finding pleasure in wine.
An outdoor pop-up cinema screening to raise money for the cancer charity Fundavita
By Amanda Barnes. Web: www.amandabarnes.co.uk Twitter: @amanda_tweeter Instagram: @amanda_wine