Wine industry comes together to discuss grape marc issues

Wine Marlborough chairman and Giesen Wines Marlborough general manager Rhyan Wardman at the company's grape marc pad ...

Wine Marlborough chairman and Giesen Wines Marlborough general manager Rhyan Wardman at the company's grape marc pad near Blenheim.

The wine industry is stepping up its efforts to deal with issues around grape marc, but any possible solutions are being kept under wraps.

The expansion of the Marlborough wine industry has led to increased amounts of the winemaking byproduct; the skins, seeds, pulp and stems of grapes used to make wine.

And with more grape marc has come more public scrutiny around its storage, which can have damaging environmental effects when it leaches into soil and waterways.

New Zealand Winegrowers, the nationwide industry body, has convened a new discussion group around grape marc as part of the development of its Sustainable Winegrowing in New Zealand programme.

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Chief executive Philip Gregan said a meeting was held two weeks ago between New Zealand Winegrowers, Wine Marlborough, the Marlborough District Council and a number of wine companies to discuss the issues and challenges posed by the byproduct.

However, he said he could not go into detail about what was discussed at the meeting, or whether the industry was looking at funding for a purpose-built facility to extract nutrients or compost grape marc.

In 2014, Wine Marlborough and the Marlborough District Council, along with a group of wine companies, were involved in a group investigating sustainable uses for grape marc.

As part of this, they worked with Australian-based company Tarac Technologies to see if they were interested in developing a facility in Marlborough to extract value from the byproduct.

The partnership fell over, but new Wine Marlborough chairman Rhyan Wardman said the recent meeting was an indication that dealing with grape marc was back on the table.

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"We as an industry need to put as much focus on this as we do with other aspects of the supply chain," he said.

"It's a wake-up call and a realisation that there's some good stuff here. We need to take a fresh approach where we no longer view it as waste but as a beneficial byproduct."

A council environment committee report showed, of those inspected by compliance staff following harvest, 12 wine companies composted their grape marc on-site; seven spread it directly to land; and 15 had their grape marc transported off-site for composting, stockpiling or stock feed.

There were four abatement notices issued for incorrect storage and grape marc leachate following harvest, including one instance where leachate polluted a rural Marlborough waterway.

Puka Puka Stream, around 12 kilometres south of Blenheim, was polluted with what council staff called a "sewage fungus" after grape mark leachate got into the stream when heavy rain caused run-off from where it was being stored.

Landowner Mike Gifford, who notified council about the run-off, said the creek was healing itself as it dried up and most of the scungy black material had died off.

A spokeswoman said the council, as it had with the Tarac initiative, was happy to help the industry in a facilitation capacity, but it was the responsibility of industry, not ratepayers.

"The need for a long-term solution to the disposal of grape marc has been clearly signalled to the wine industry for several years now and council has been encouraging the industry to search out some answers," she said.

"Recently council met with [Sustainable Winegrowing in New Zealand] and Wine Marlborough to again draw attention to the issues that exist for this industry."

 - The Marlborough Express


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