Vineyard Sustainability- Living and Winemaking Off-Grid
Updated: May 22, 2021
Part of the adventure of this ambitious project in the Andes has been living completely “off-grid”, which required us to change our mentality about energy and resource consumption. Although it was difficult to adjust our lifestyle, reducing our carbon footprint and promoting sustainability in winemaking has been surprisingly gratifying. Here are some examples of how we operate sustainably here at Apu:
Electricity- Manual labor replaces the work of machinery such as crushers and destemmers. With the assistance of the steep slopes at our location, we have a gravity-flow system, which efficiently channels water to our home, winery, and vineyards, eliminating the need for pumps. Furthermore, we have 4 solar panels that convert the sun's rays into 12-volt electricity, which transfers to 3 batteries. A transformer then converts the energy, supplying 220-volt electricity for all our needs.
Refrigeration- 2 solar panels provide electricity to our small refrigerator and freezer. This is sufficient to keep our food safe for consumption. We will soon be investing in a larger solar freezer so we have chillers onsite to assist with cooling during fermentation.
Water- The water that supplies our vineyard, winery and home comes from: runoff from the Andes, high-altitude Andean lagoons, and rainwater. We use rain gutters and tanks to collect precipitation and cement and fiberglass tanks to collect runoff. A system of tubes, valves and drips form part of our gravity-flow irrigation system, which functions when the runoff gains velocity as it descends down the mountainside, creating the necessary pressure to expel the water from the tubes and drips. Finally, to make potable water, we use a system of carbon filtering, solar rays, and a ceramic cask filter system.
No-waste winery model- At Apu, we reuse all organic material from our home and winery. Food waste goes to compost and stems, seeds, and grapeskins are used to make pomace brandy (and then composted). All of our organic material is used as fertilizer in the vineyard.
Organic when possible- We avoid harmful chemicals whenever possible. This especially applies to our weeding technqiues. Since we can't weed mechanically and we don't use herbicides, we remove unwanted plants and brush completely by hand. In addition, here at Apu we have created an organic anti-fungus concoction of lime sulfur, copper sulfate and sulfur to control mold and mildew during the rainy season. So, instead of spraying with fungicides, we paint our recently pruned plants with this concoction, as seen in this photo:
Architecture- Part of our house is built underground, which provides a natural air conditioning system when days are scorching. These cool zones act as cold storage for wine bottles. They are also helpful when we need to slow fermentation or stabilize tartaric acid. Finally, the construction of the house was completed with recycled materials and plaster, eucalyptus and stones from the area.
It makes us proud to make delicious wine while supporting sustainable practices. We hope our model continues to work in the future as our vineyards expand and our needs for energy grow. In the meantime, we will be cognizant to technological advances that will allow us to operate even more efficiently in our off-the-grid home and winery.