A Rutherglen property has joined an exclusive list of only 10 Victorian vineyards to receive a certification status which acknowledges the owner's commitment to sustainable farming.
Seventh-generation Lake Moodemere Estate is the first north-east Victorian to receive the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia Certification, and one of only 10 vineyards in Victoria to hold the title.
Now managed by Joel Chambers and owned by his parents Michael and Belinda Chambers, their ethos has been to improve and preserve the land where vines have grown since 1886.
Mrs Chambers said the certification was a result of fine tuning and formalising vineyard practices, underpinned by generations of knowledge and expertise, along with new technologies and systems.
The family said they had undertaken a range of sustainable practices, including by reducing fuel and water usage, despite the warm and dry climate of the Rutherglen district.
The 400-hectare property overlooks Lake Moodemere and includes a prime lamb component along with broadacre cropping.
"Water use has been dramatically reduced in the last three years, both through the replacement of 30 year old dripper lines with a new, efficient, pressure compensated system, and through the application of straw under the vines to assist with water retention in the soil," Mrs Chamber said.
Water usage at Lake Moodemere Estate for 2020/21 was in the lowest 33 per cent of member vineyards in Australia, while fuel use was in the lowest 15pc.
"This result is largely credited to the incorporation of the estate's lamb production in the management of the vineyard," Mrs Chambers said.
"Sheep are contained in cells to ensure adequate weed management and minimal soil compaction.
"The prime lambs are then used in Lake Moodemere Estate's Lakeside Restaurant, encompassing a sustainable paddock to plate concept."
The focus on water efficiency has resulted in a range of benefits.
"Soil temperature has been reduced by 18°C, earthworm activity has increased, a greater diversity of soil-borne insects observed, and overall growing conditions improved," Mrs Chambers said.
The grazing of sheep in cells is also helping the family to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduced chemical inputs.
Joel said the certification by Sustainable Winegrowing Australia recognised an industry commitment to prioritise the use of energy and water for the health of the environment.
"Although we were already operating with a sustainable philosophy, fine-tuning and formalising the process can, at times, be arduous," he said.
"By sharing our experience, I'm able to provide a mentoring role with the goal of achieving certification for as many of our members as possible. Ultimately,
"It's not about a logo or a certificate, it's about improving and preserving our environment for a healthy and productive future."