Next time you’re drinking wine, take a moment to think about the farmers who grow the grapes. Erratic weather can have a major impact on grape yields, with the flow on effects resulting in financial hardship and uncertainty over their future. This is where Unico Zelo has stepped in. Unico Zelo is a winery based in the Northern Adelaide Hills, and has formed Australia’s only growers-cooperative with the aim of helping vineyard farmers experiencing difficulties.
Growers within a 5km radius of Unico Zelo have formed the Harvest Grower’s Co-op, giving them greater certainty over their crop. The growers typically have large wineries as customers. These customers contract out the vineyards, own the fruit and can determine what happens with the crop each year. This means they have the option to buy or reject the fruit each vintage, leaving the growers uncertain as to whether they will be able to cover their costs from year to year. This acts as a deterrent in farming which ultimately has an impact on Australian grape fruit production.
Instead of selling their crop for bottom dollar, the co-operative allows growers to donate the grapes to Unico Zelo. Unico Zelo can then use the grapes in the production of their Harvest label, with 50% of the profits from sales given back to the growers. As a result, the grape growers who are part of the co-op are now receiving a much higher profit for their grape yields.
According to Unico Zelo, their growers are now increasingly sustainable and not solely at the whim of large single customers that dictate the rules to them. All they have to do – is what they do best – grow good grapes. Except now they can invest in better equipment, staff and even expand their assets
To date, Unico Zelo have issued $30,000 worth of grower-first investment initiatives, allowing growers to re-plant sustainable alternative grape varieties. These are better suited to the Australian landscape and climate as they can essentially be rain fed. Because of this initiative they have now established multiple hectares of Fiano and Nero d’ Avola in the Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley.
Unico Zelo hope to encourage other wineries around Australia to adopt the co-op program to support growers in need.
Inspired by an intense passion for the land, Unico Zelo’s wines are crafted to showcase the unique sites and soils Australia has to offer – in styles that are typified by the life and culture of this sunburn country – from varieties that require minimal intervention.
Unico Zelo’s Harvest wines are available for purchase nationally at independent liquor stores.