All wines from this year's vintage entered at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards must be sustainably produced as the industry moves towards full sustainability, says New Zealand Winegrowers' global marketing director Chris Yorke.
About 85 per cent and 94 per cent of winery and vineyard production respectively were under sustainable schemes, Yorke said.
New Zealand Winegrowers wants the whole industry working under independently audited sustainability schemes by 2012.
"This is a really crucial step within that," Yorke said.
From vintage 2010 onwards, if companies wanted to take part in a New Zealand Winegrowers' event or promotion, including those run overseas, those wines needed to be signed up, he said.
The aim of the sustainability scheme was to reduce all inputs to the most efficient level, including pesticides, water and electricity.
"This is about looking at all the things that you do [and] what's the most sustainable way that you could be operating," Yorke said.
"We think it's the right thing to do and more recently a lot of consumers and trade believe it's the right thing to do as well."
A lot of wineries and grape growers found they reduced costs by being part of the scheme, Yorke said.
"A lot of people find [that] on a very practical level that you're teaching your staff not to chase down the leaves with a big hose that gushes hundreds of litres a minute rather than use a brush."
Chairman of judges Steve Smith, who is also a wine director at Craggy Range, said the majority of the industry had embraced the scheme.
"From a producer's point of view I know for us it significantly reduced the amount of loading of agri-chemicals on our vineyards, which is just fantastic," Smith said.
The three pillars of sustainability were economic, environmental and social, he said.
"Most people look at sustainability as just an environmental thing whereas in fact that's only one leg of a three-legged stool."
The scheme put some validity behind the Pure Discovery tagline of New Zealand wine and Smith said every other appointment he attended in the market raised a question about issues such as sustainability or organics.
"Probably in the last 18 months it has got some significance in amongst those gatekeepers," Smith said.
"We need to show that because of the way that we farm, 70 per cent of our electricity is renewable anyway, and because of all these other practices New Zealand wine is as sustainably produced as any in the world if not better than all others in the world."
* All 2010 vintages at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards must be sustainably produced.
* Grapes, winemaking and packaging facilities must be certified through an independently audited sustainability programme.
* Aim of an industry sustainability scheme is to reduce inputs to the most efficient, including pesticides, water and electricity.
* Target is to have the entire industry working under sustainability schemes by 2012.By Owen Hembry Email Owen