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Enjoying a good drop with a good conscience

Research project provides incentive for sustainable wine production

Viticulture is one of Europe's oldest economic sectors and left its mark on ancient civilisations. Since then, much has progressed in cultivation techniques – yet there is still room for improvement concerning the handling of residual materials from the production process. A project consortium, led by ttz Bremerhaven, is developing a quality seal which distinguishes producers for a greater focus on sustainability and should thus give wings to their product sales.

Under rising pressure from increasingly stringent regulations and the expectations of a growing group of critical consumers, wine producers in southern European regions are obliged to blaze new trails. SUSTAVINO, a project supported by the European Commission, aims to consolidate the sustainability of small and medium-sized wine producers in Europe through strategic measures. For producers, it is worthwhile considering not only the grape's journey into the bottle, but also the disposal of residual materials and a tactical use of resources. The factors of quality, organics and emotionality are important trends for the consumer – this is the conclusion drawn at ProWein, the most important trade exhibition in the sector which takes place annually in Düsseldorf. Regulations for environmental protection are also tightening up and targeting above all liquid and solid residue from wine production. Whether with a view to threatening restrictions or to greater sales through a "greener" image – there is no way round the further development of waste and wastewater concepts for wine-producing and processing enterprises.

With the SUSTAVINO project, ttz Bremerhaven is supporting the wine industry in gearing its production more towards ecological requirements and by that in strengthening its competitive position. In an economic sector that generates over 60 percent of global wine production in Europe, the question concerning the future of wine production has far-reaching consequences. The sector is not only an important employer but creates also a sense of identity and is a significant tourism factor in certain regions.

"To date no process has been established to treat wastewater from wine cultivation and processing in a production-oriented and sustainable manner", reports Dr. Anne Berghoff, Project Manager at ttz Bremerhaven. During the seasonal peaks in wine production, wastewater treatment systems, but also lakes and rivers, are heavily polluted with dissolved organic substances – with long-term consequences for these eco-systems. There are currently no sustainable treatment concepts for solid residual materials either. In most cases these are used exclusively as fertilisers, resulting however in unpleasant odours, contaminating the ground water and leading to the spread of germs as well as the deterioration of soil fertility.

In the EU project Sustavino, a differentiated method is being developed and optimised in order to make the management of wastewater and residual materials more efficient. In order to determine the scientific values, samples were taken from vineyards in Spain, Romania, Hungary, and Germany. The only producer from Germany is Weingut Holstein in Kindenheim. "My clients are generally very interested in how the wine they enjoy is produced. By taking part in the Sustavino project, we are working hard to obtain a quality seal with which we can communicate our pioneer status and also make it verifiable", says Thilo Holstein, explaining his decision to participate in the project. In this way, Holstein is accommodating growing consumer interest in the environmental balance of wine.

Staff at ttz Bremerhaven working in the field of environment are currently monitoring production in Kindenheim. The samples are examined with regard to indicators for the degree of organic contamination, nutrient content, suspended particles, pH value, conductivity, heavy metals, pesticides, polyphenols and coliform germs. For this, volume-related water samples are taken from 20-litre units at each step of the process. The result: The contamination of the water with organic components in all cleaning stages is considerably higher than the average inflow values in sewage plants. Thus here too there is an urgent need for optimisation. The contamination can be reduced by various types of on-site pre-treatment. These include, for example, ventilated primary settlement tanks or different types of bio-reactors, as well as constructed wetlands. In the coming year, the various alternatives will be tested first of all in the laboratory. New approaches will then be tested and assessed in the vineyards during the next wine harvest."

In the three-year duration of the project, the partners also plan to foster the recovery of valuable residual substances such, for example, as polyphenols, pigments, oils and biocides, with the aid of modern process engineering. "Biologically active residual materials can experience an attractive increase in value through upgrading processes", summarises Cristina Duran Martinez, who is also a Project Manager at ttz Bremerhaven. The wine industry in France, Greece, Italy and Spain produces a total of over one million tons of residual material per year. The SUSTAVINO project with a volume of 1.1 million € is focusing on a mix of strategic measures. Four research organisations, five viticulture co-operatives and four wine producers are joining forces to raise consumer acceptance through improved management of residual materials and thus to bolster European producers.

ttz Bremerhaven is an innovative provider of research services and operates in the field of application-oriented research and development. Under the umbrella of ttz Bremerhaven, an international team of proven experts are working in the areas of food, environment, health and consultant.

Christian Colmer
Head of Communications and Media
ttz Bremerhaven
Fischkai 1
D-27572 Bremerhaven (Germany)
Phone: +49 (0)471 48 32 -124
Fax: +49 (0)471 48 32 - 129

Christian Colmer | idw
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Further reports about: Germany Sustavino Viticulture cultivation techniques wine production

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