Sustainable Wineries - Elgo Estate in Victoria

Story and photos by Rebecca McNeill

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Elgo Estate effluent pond recycles liquid and solid waste, suitable for irrigation
A drive up the Hume Highway about an hour and a half north of Melbourne city in Victoria takes us into the lush driveway of a most unusual vineyard.

We were about to visit one that is sustainable. Elgo Estate is one of the few wineries in Australia and internationally that has a carbon negative footprint. In other words, it abrogates the effects of the pollution it does create with solutions that lower its carbon emissions.

As the charming Elgo catch cry goes, 'Wines that don't cost the Earth'.

The green movement is nothing new. People, businesses, corporations and society as a whole is learning first hand what effects climate change can have on this planet, and now even wine makers are doing their bit.

Upon glimpsing the Elgo Estate in the Strathbogie Ranges for the first time, I was perplexed to see not people, but sheep roaming the vineyard rows. Asked why this was, the chief winemaker at Elgo Estate, Cameron Atkins, said that the sheep were allowed to roam free among the vines as they reduce tractor work and fuel usage by eating the weeds.

But as we rounded the large winemaking facilities it was clear where Elgo Estate's sustainability is focussed. It has a huge2215646-1637566-thumbnail.jpg
Wind energy generated powers up Elgo Estate's needs, and more is pumped back into the grid
wind turbine.

Elgo Estate measured its energy requirements to maintain correct temperature year around and enable refrigeration in the early stages of white wine making. Having found that the need would be significant, the wine makers decided to commit to sustainability.

Generating its own electricity from the wind is one way in which the Australian winery not only reduces its carbon footprint, but ensures it goes into negative territory, which is a plus for the environment. The 150kW wind turbine generates clean and green electricity and powers everything at the winery, saving about 1 tonne of greenhouse gas per day.

Often it generates more electricity than Elgo Estate can use, so excess energy is diverted back to the main power grid, which can supply the energy needs of around 34 homes.

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Carbon dioxide from fermenting process is recycled to another barrel
Hermine and Guntar Taresch own the Elgo Estate winery and made their first commercial wines in 2004, and as well as making sure that hundreds of sheep dot their vineyards to do the weeding, they also ensure that native trees and grasses are planted around the property.

The winery recycles all grey water for use on the vineyards, has significant rain water tanks to collect rain fall. The winery even recycles effluent and other liquids from the wine making process. The solid waste and aeration of the waste water in specially constructed effluent ponds lowers the high organic load of winery effluent, making it acceptable for irrigation.

Even the grape skins are recycled, sometimes combined with chicken manure, and tilled into the ground as fertilizer for the vines, ensuring the plants deliver ripe fruit.

Of course, there was also the temptation of the various wines from both the Elgo and Allira wine labels. The 2004 Pinot Noir is very good. The range of cool-climate Victorian wines is definitely getting better, and this drop is no exception. Also of note are the Elgo Estate and Allira label Semillion Blanc and Chardonnay varietals, showcasing the 'fresh and elegant' feel towards which Atkins' strives.

The main reason we headed to the Elgo Estate winery was to see the sustainable systems it has in place, and it was impressive to see how organic their processes were.

And a good glass of wine always helps.

Getting There 

map_sml_Bottom.gif.gifThe Elgo Estate winery and vineyards are located in the Upton Hill region of the Strathbogie Ranges of Central Victoria. Turning off the Hume Freeway midway between Avenel and Euroa, you climb your way up into the Ranges through picturesque farming country. At the very top you will find yourself at Upton Hill, the home of Elgo Estate.

Upton Road (enter via Gate 1), Upton Hill, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria
Postal Address: RMB 6170 James Road, Longwood, Victoria 3665
Telephone: 61 3 5798 5563 Facsimile: 61 3 5798 5524
Email: info@elgoestate.com.au

Elgo Estate is open by appointment for tasting and tours.

Article republished from WebWombat