As winemakers, at Chapel Down we think not just in years but in generations. We take long term positions on land with long views on its management in order that we can continue to produce our exceptional wines. The sustainability of our operations is important to us as a business and to us all as individuals. And we apply the same long-term perspective to all our activities across the Chapel Down Group. We are proud to be founder members of the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Scheme which promotes sustainable practices across the industry.
There are a number of aspects to addressing the Sustainability of our business. In some areas we are operating to exemplary standards and in others we have improvements to make. Below we detail current status and actions across the different areas. Our pledge is to a process of continuous improvement, and we will update on progress.
We understand that healthy soils are good for our vines and good for the planet. We are lucky to have vineyard soils rich in organic matter which is important to maintain healthy populations of micro-organisms and improve water retention and nutrient availability. Building and maintaining humus-rich soils in our vineyards aids natural cycles and helps keep carbon and nitrogen in the soil rather than lost to the atmosphere or water courses.
We are continuously reviewing our soil management programme including protocols for soil sampling, nutrient replenishment and ground cover management. To date we have re-introduced indigenous grasses within our vine rows and on headlands and apply organic fertilisers to replenish nutrients and maintain soil health. We are continuing to invest in new equipment that enables us to significantly reduce our use of chemical herbicides and we have introduced sheep grazing on land waiting to be planted with vines.
We are developing a long-term plan for both cultivated and non-cultivated land that protects and enhances natural features and boundaries, including developing wildlife habitats in field margins and hedgerows.
We see significant benefits by supporting and strengthening biodiversity in the local environments. Not only does this enhance the natural ecosystem providing habitat for indigenous species of flora and fauna but also helps provide a natural control for pests and diseases and weed management.
We are also planning to work with Natural England to harvest wild-flower seeds from within the vineyard margins to create nature corridors and conservation areas.
The profitability and sustainability of a vineyard relies on the health of its vines, therefore limiting impacts from pests and disease is essential. We have an holistic, integrated approach to pest and disease management adopting cultural methods of prevention to minimise chemical control. Our viticulture team have an understanding of the life-cycles of pests and diseases, and how they interact with their environment particularly the vine canopy and vineyard microclimates. Our vineyard managers regularly monitor for pests and diseases to ensure appropriate and timely controls are planned. By understanding the bigger picture, impacts can be managed in a more cost-effective way, with the lowest possible impact on the environment.
Our waterways are replenished by high annual rainfall compared with other regions in Europe. But water is still a scarce, expensive, and precious resource. Water is of critical importance for winemaking activities. Sustainable water management at Chapel Down centres on minimising water use and protecting the purity of our water sources.
At the winery we monitor the water we use and reduce this volume through efficient tank and pipe cleaning equipment.
Our glass is made of 76% recycled material and is 100% recyclable (based on 2020 vintage packaged in 2021). Our sparkling wine box inserts are made from 100% recycled material and are also 100% recyclable. The wine boxes we use are made of 70% recycled content and are 100% recyclable
Where we cannot use recycled materials, we endeavour to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified materials. The FSC certification means that the wood within the product is from FSC certified forests.
Some packaging materials from the winery, vineyards, distribution, and offices are recovered and recycled by nationwide and regional recycling programmes. But not all. A key target for us is that all cardboard, plastic wrap, glass, batteries, and even solvents and waste oils will be reused or recycled rather than ending life as landfill.
We are committed to reducing packaging wherever possible and if plastic is to be used then recycled not virgin.
While all agricultural production generates waste, the majority of our manufacturing and raw ingredient waste can be repurposed.
Vine prunings are mulched and/or composted and then applied back on to vineyards as organic matter. Our grape skins are reused as a part of our Gin and Vodka production, the remainder is sent for anaerobic digestion to produce renewable energy. On average this produces enough electricity annually to supply 25 average UK homes for a year.
Finally, management of wastewater is also an important issue. Our winery manages it’s wastewater to ensure there is no nutrient enrichment or salination of downstream water sources, and our vineyard teams ensure no degradation of soil structure, no contaminate in soils or excessive odour emission during treatment.
Reducing our carbon footprint is a necessity and it starts with our use of energy. Currently 100% of our electricity is from renewable sources.
In a winery, energy conservation begins in the planning and construction stages. Our new and upgraded winery building, when finished, will feature technologies to assist with energy conservation including: computer-controlled heat pumps, heat recovery systems and variable speed pumps to minimise energy required to pump wine and water.
At the existing winery we continue to make improvements including in our lighting and use of cooling systems.
Our success depends on the commitment and passion of our teams, through each step of the growing, production and sales and distribution chain.
We take long term views on people and invest in their development and ensure they are motivated to stay at Chapel Down by being an integral part of the ownership of the company through share incentive schemes and regular business update briefings. We invest in people through education as we believe this is a great way to retain and build on the talent at Chapel Down.
We encourage everyone to think and behave more sustainably, to help reduce wastage and costs, and increase efficiency and good environmental outcomes.
We passionately believe in a diverse and inclusive recruitment and development policy, with equal opportunities for all whatever your background or beliefs.
Our vineyard and winery practices - such as labour relations, environmental legislation, animal welfare and food safety - are governed by legislated programmes. We are on a journey of continuous improvement and each manager has objectives in place across their respective areas.
Sustainability is critical to the longevity and legacy of the Chapel Down brand. Practices that enable our production, retail and tourism maintain balance in our growing environment, add value to local communities, and make substantial cost savings long-term.
The entire supply chain is factored into our sustainability equation, from sourcing raw materials through to in-market communications, packaging through to transport and logistics, and everything else in between. Less IS more!
We recognise that selling our product domestically significantly decreases the environmental impact versus shipping internationally. UK sales remain our priority and this positive will be one of the benefits we communicate to our consumers.
And last but not least is profit. We can only be a sustainable business if we generate profits. Our teams and our practices need to ensure we are generating sustainable profits from our business. Sustainable practices that deliver improved sustainable profits will always be implemented faster and more effectively than practices that don’t. That’s human and business nature!
Sustainability is an important focus for us and a growing number of businesses and industries. We are mindful that together we will achieve far more and we are proud to say that we are founding members of both the WineGB Sustainable Wines of Great Britain scheme and the Walpole Sustainability Policy. The former will allow us to measure and benchmark across the English & Welsh wines industry and the latter across the British Luxury industry. Both are in their formative stages – we will update with learnings and metrics we will adopt as we go.