Integrated viticulture is a production method used for the growing of high-quality grapes, wine and other grape products on a commercial scale. This concept focuses primarily on the protection of human health, together with the conservation of primary production resources and the environment. The vineyard agro-ecosystem is considered in its entirety and includes all the individual steps involved in vine care. As a general rule, every EU member state must comply with the integrated production guidelines for agriculture.
The concept of “integrated production” evolved from “integrated plant protection”. The increased use of plant protection products in the 1980s was linked to a multitude of problems. Scientific methods were used to precisely investigate the side effects of plant protection products on the ecosystem, which were then evaluated in terms of the harm they caused to beneficial organisms. Today, plant protection products and fertilisers that are permitted for use in vineyards are strictly regulated and wineries are required to keep an exact log of their use.
100% of Austria’s area under vine (44,537 ha) must be cultivated according to the principles of integrated production. If a winery has also signed up to ÖPUL – which is the case for over 80% of all agricultural enterprises in Austria – it needs to comply with even stricter requirements. (ÖPUL = Austrian programme for the promotion of an agricultural system that is environmentally sound, extensive and protective of natural habitats)
Compliance with the guidelines of integrated production is a prerequisite for receiving EU subsidies. Furthermore, the agri-environmental programme ÖPUL (Austrian programme for the promotion of an agricultural system that is environmentally sound, extensive and protective of natural habitats) promotes the key cornerstones of environmentally conscious viticulture in Austria.
Four measures that are part of ÖPUL are particularly significant and have driven the widespread nature of environmentally friendly and sustainable practices within Austrian viticulture. This, in turn, explains the country’s high number of wineries that are organic, biodynamic and “Sustainable Austria”-certified. These four government-funded measures are erosion control, a ban on the use of insecticides and herbicides, and cultivation in compliancewith organic viticulture regulations. Detailed information about individual measures can be found in the section on EU directives and subsidy policy.
Austrians are born nature-lovers and therefore particularly respectful towards the natural environment. This is a country that places great importance on environmental protection and the responsible use of natural resources. It comes as no surprise, that Austria is a world leader in environmentally conscious viticulture.