Information on sustainable winemaking at Totto Winery, the only winery in Tottori City
April 22 is "Earth Day", a day to think about the global environment. On this day, we would like to report on our sustainable winemaking efforts, to highlight how small producers can impact our move towards a sustainable society.
Totto Winery, run by Totto Co. (President : Maeoka Mikako), uses grapes grown by the company itself to make wine, based on the philosophy of "connecting people through viticulture and winemaking to create dreams and a future". The company has continued to grow and, in particular, had a 278% increase in sales in 2021 compared to 2018.
２．Issues in the local environment
2-1 Increase in abandoned land
Increasing numbers of abandoned fields, caused by declining birthrates and an aging population which results in a lack of agricultural workers, has become a major problem in the area surrounding Tottori City where our company is located.
Table 1 shows the status of idle farmland in Kokufu area. Classification B of idle farmland corresponds to abandoned fields that used to be cultivated.
Table1 : Agricultural land area and idle farmland area in Kokufu from 2016 to 2020 *1
2-2 Climate Change
In recent years, climate change has had severe impacts all over the world, and this is also the case in Tottori City. Figure 1 shows the annual average temperature and the three-year moving average in Tottori City.
It can be seen that the average temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius over the past few years.
Warmer temperature can lead to diseases and lack of moisture in the soil, which can damage the growth of grapes.
Figure 1: Annual average temperature and three-year moving average in Tottori City *2
３．Results of our efforts
3-1 "Soil preparation", the starting point of winemaking
■ Using abandoned farmland
We are converting abandoned fields into vineyards. From 2015, when the company was established, to 2021, we have converted 1.48 ha of abandoned fields into vineyards. Figure 2 shows the transition of the grape cultivation area.
Figure 2: Grape Cultivation Area
Mature vineyard: Vineyards that are ready to harvest grapes. It usually takes about three years for vineyard to become mature.
■ No artificial fertilizers
We convert rice paddies and fields into vineyards. If we used chemical fertilizers, the fertilizer would flow not only into our vineyards but also to the surrounding fields and paddies, leading to soil damage. In order to protect the land and pass down the vineyards to future generations we:
(1) Fertilize using grape pomace
We reuse grape pomace as fertilizer to nourish the next season’s grape. Grape pomace is the grape skins and stems left over from the winemaking process. Figure 3 shows the use of grape pomace in 2020 and 2021, and shows that we reused 27% of our total wine grape yield in 2020 and 26% in 2021 as fertilizer. Fertilizers made of grape pomace can nourish the vineyard for a long period of time because they decompose slowly in the soil.
Figure 3: Total grape harvest in 2020 and 2021
Photo: Fertilizer made of grape pomace
Photo: Spreading the fertilizer
(2) Green manure
‘Green manure’ means using plants themself as fertilizer. We grow clover, a legume, to restore nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is essential for healthy grape growth so the clover restores the soil fertility. By using clover plants as a green manure, cultivation is possible without relying on external fertilizers for nitrogen and other nutrients.
Photo: Vineyard using green manure
(3) Weed control without herbicides
We do not use herbicides that may cause soil contamination and reduced biodiversity. Weeds are mown by machine or by hand. The mown grass is decomposed by soil microorganisms and becomes fertilizer, which aids in the grape cultivation.
Photo: Mowing the grass with a self-propelled mower
3-2 “Energy Conservation” directly related to land cultivation and the winemaking
■ Conversion to renewable energy
In order to firmly reflect the taste of our home-grown grapes in the wine, we have an emphasis on low-temperature fermentation. This requires continuous cooling of the wine, which consumes a large amount of electricity. In order to continue making wine with a focus on flavor, we must reduce our power consumption.
Therefore, from August 2020, we have shifted to renewable energy sources. We use an electric power company based in Tottori, creating a regional economic cycle that can be called “local production for local consumption”, thus making us closer to the local community.
■ Power Efficiency
Figure 4: Annual Power Consumption at Totto winery
Every year, power use increases from August, when winemaking begins, and decreases around February, when winemaking is finished. Electricity is used for wine storage, but it is relatively little during the summer months.
Table 2: Power Consumption per kg of wine produced 2019 ~ 2021
As a result of the shift to Tottori shimin power corporation, we were able to improve the efficiency of power use by 3.9% compared to the previous year. We will continue our efforts to use power more efficiently per kg of wine preparation.
４．Grape varieties adapted to climate change
Climate change has made cultivation of some grape varieties difficult, and other varieties are expected to become more difficult to grow in the future. Tottori has also experienced more extreme weather events such as heat waves and torrential rains. Under these climatic conditions, we are cultivating about 15 grape varieties selected under the supervision of Umegaki Vineyard in Kyoto. Totto winery grows grapes which have high heat resistance, high resistance to fruit breakage and disease, and stable yields. We will continue to select grape varieties suitable for Tottori's climate and produce excellent wines in Tottori.
We are also cultivating our own original grapes. They are scheduled to be released in the winter of 2022, and have strong adaptability to the environment, and have better taste and individuality when made into wine. We will continue our research so that this variety can support Japanese winemaking in the future.
５． Five-year plan
We will expand our vineyards by 150% (compared to 2022).
In the Kokufu area, where the increase in abandoned fields has become a problem, we will continue to preserve farmland by converting abandoned land into vineyards. We aim to expand our farmland from 1.6 ha in 2022 to 2.4 ha by 2027, which is 1.5 times larger.
We will continue to protect nature in the region and contribute to people's health and affluence by utilizing abandoned land in the region to grow grapes and other fruit and engaging in sustainable winemaking.
*1 From the Tottori City Board of Agriculture, survey of dilapidated farmland.
*2 time-j.net temperature and rainfall statistics page (https://weather.time-j.net/