What is regenerative viticulture?

Regenerative viticulture is regenerative agriculture as it relates specifically to the farming of vitis vinifera grapes for wine production. It is based on the understanding that the health and fertility of soil is the foundation for life above and below ground and that it is the most important component of healthy terroir.

The idea of terroir is at the heart of regenerative viticulture. Recent studies have confirmed that capturing and expressing the sense of place in a wine is closely interlinked with a living and healthy soil microbiome in the vineyard.

What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil, increasing biodiversity above and below ground, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting carbon sequestration, and increasing resilience to climate change.

A study of 229 academic journal articles and 25 practitioner websites, published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (2020) identified the following most common elements of “regenerative agriculture” as mentioned in the definitions given:

Element included in definition of “regenerative agriculture”Journal articles that mentioned (N = 229)Practitioner websites that mentioned (N = 25)Process / Outcome?
To improve soil health (e.g. structure, soil organic matter, fertility)40.50%86.40%Outcome
To increase biodiversity21.50%45.50%Outcome
Integration of livestock19.00%40.90%Process
To improve ecosystem health (including ecosystem services)17.40%31.80%Outcome
To increase carbon sequestration17.40%63.60%Outcome
To improve the social and/or economic wellbeing of communities17.40%40.90%Outcome
To improve water health (e.g. hydrology, storage; reduce pollution)14.90%45.50%Outcome
To maintain or improve farm productivity14.90%22.70%Outcome
Use no synthetic pesticides12.40%18.20%Process
Reduce tillage (or no-, minimal-, conservation-)11.60%40.90%Process
To create a circular system and/or reduce waste11.60%4.50%Outcome
Use crop plant diversity (including intercropping)9.10%13.60%Process
Use compost, mulch, green manure, or crop residues9.10%27.30%Process
Use cover crops8.30%36.40%Process
Use organic methods8.30%13.60%Process
To improve food access and/or food security8.30%13.60%Outcome
Focus on localism and/or regionality5.00%0.00%Process
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions4.10%13.60%Outcome
Restore natural habitats2.50%4.50%Outcome
To improve food safety1.70%4.50%Outcome
To improve animal welfare0.00%13.60%Outcome

Source: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (2020)

How is regenerative agriculture different to organic agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture shares and extends many of the principles of organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is a system that excludes the use of synthetic (artificial) fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides on soil and plants. Regenerative agriculture targets the repair and regeneration of soil and associated ecosystems. By focusing on soil, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting carbon sequestration, and increasing resilience to climate change, regenerative practices surpass simple sustainability and use agriculture as a means to improve and enhance the natural environment. There may be climates and crops where full organic practices are not possible or economically viable, but where regenerative principles can make an enormous difference to the improvement of soil quality.

How is regenerative agriculture different to biodynamic agriculture?

Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic approach to farming. When applied to viticulture, exponents agree that there are as many definitions of biodynamics as there are vintners. The common features relate to fostering living soils, biodiversity and natural balance in ecosystems. Regenerative viticulture shares similar objectives in promoting an ecological view of farming with the natural environment, but without the emphasis typically given to specific treatments, spiritual, cosmic, human or social perspectives.

What is the Foundation's approach to certification?

The Regenerative Viticulture Foundation exists to promote regenerative viticulture and assist growers everywhere in becoming regenerative. The Foundation does not have a certification process because we want growers to be able to approach regenerative viticulture as far as each individual vineyard permits, recognising that not all holdings are homogenous. The Foundation therefore seeks to provide the evidence, resources and experience to enable viticulturists to begin their journey towards regenerative farming without any requirement for third party validation.