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When sustainability sparkles

Packaging Solutions

London Packaging Week panellist and MDCV UK CEO Gary Smith explains how the business’s commitment to sustainability and innovation is reshaping English viticulture, setting a new standard in quality and environmental stewardship.


As the morning sun begins its ascent over the rolling vineyards of Silverhand Estate, the expansive view from the office is nothing short of breathtaking. The early light casts a soft, golden glow over the meticulously maintained rows of grapevines. Nestled in the heart of this picturesque landscape, the estate embodies a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation, a testament to its rich history and commitment to excellence.


Gary Smith, the visionary behind MDCV UK Wines, has a deep passion for winemaking and a keen eye for quality, Gary has been instrumental in elevating MDCV UK Wines to new heights.


‘I have worked in various industries,’ he said. ‘I started in supply chain operations and moved into more commercial roles. I have worked in electronics, avionics, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and FMCG. Then I moved into the wine industry, and I think a lot of those skills are transferable, from an operational management point of view, as well as motivating and putting teams and strategy together. Coming into wine, having had no experience of wine, was a challenge. In addition, where we were going as the largest producer in the UK, was obviously an even bigger challenge.’


‘Some of the challenges were around the knowledge of wine and the industry's culture,’ he continued. ‘It is very different from an FMCG or pharmaceutical environment because it is a bit more insular and a little bit more close knit. However, I saw the opportunity to bring some FMCG principles into the wine industry, which tends to be quite small and boutique.’


MDCV UK is redefining the narrative of English viticulture with a bold and distinctive approach. Gary's willingness to push boundaries and embrace unconventional methods has set it apart in an industry dominated by tradition and established norms.


In the heart of the English countryside, where the cool climate and fertile soil provide an ideal environment for viticulture, sustainability efforts have become a cornerstone of producing high quality English sparkling wines. The Silverhand Estate, with its commitment to sustainable practices, exemplifies how environmental stewardship is integral to the success and longevity of the wine industry. By prioritising sustainability, the estate protects the natural resources essential for vine health and enhances the quality and reputation of its sparkling wines.


‘Sustainability is at the core of what we do,’ Gary continued. ‘We are organic and moving to a more regenerative style of farming, so we graze our livestock under the vines. We don't use any chemicals. We have a dedicated conservation and sustainability team, so our biodiversity has gone up 15% in the vineyards alone, and most recently, we have planted over 22,000 new hedgerows, which has increased biodiversity more than 800%. We continue to build programmes around rainwater harvesting to get to water neutrality, and we are currently building a programme to go to B Corp and carbon neutrality. The new winery that we are looking to build, planning permitting, will be carbon neutral, water neutral, have a living roof, and naturally cool because it is built 85% underground. We will fuel it by the vineyard's pumice or the harvest skins. We will put it into an anaerobic digester, burn it in the biogas burner, and then use that residual product in the vineyards as fertilizer. So, it is very circular.’


Each morning, Gary Smith prioritises visiting the vineyards to engage with his team to ensure alignment with their long term business plan extending to 2030. His meticulous approach ensures he keeps everything within his remit, leveraging his operational background to oversee the diverse operations effectively.


Gary Smith will take centre stage as a panellist at London Packaging Week's Design Debate titled ‘Is it possible to achieve a premium feel with a high recyclability factor?’ He will be joined on the Beauty & Drinks Stage, between 1:45 pm and 2:30 pm on Thursday, 12 September, by Miles Beale from The Wine and Spirit Trade Association; Robert Malin, co-founder and chief executive officer at When in Rome; Tamara Roberts, chief executive officer at Ridgeview Wine Estate; and Stephen Russell, founder and managing director at Copper Rivet Distillery & Russell Distillers Ltd.


As Gary Smith continues to lead MDCV UK and nurture Silverhand Estate into a new era of excellence and sustainability, his dedication to innovation and quality remains unwavering. Under his stewardship, MDCV UK champions organic and regenerative farming, aiming for carbon neutrality and B Corp certification. This commitment redefines the global perception of English wine and sets a sparkling example for sustainable business practices, showcasing exceptional quality while emphasising environmental stewardship and community engagement.



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