Almost 80% of New Zealand's winegrowing land is now part of the industry's environmental, social and economic sustainability programme.

Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand made the announcement today (24 October), following news that the 1,000th vineyard has signed up to the scheme, which began in 1995.

That means that around three quarters of the country's wine is produced in accordance with the programme's rules, something industry leaders see as increasingly important in reaching out to consumers' environmental concerns.

"Consumers have expectations regarding sustainably and ethically produced products and we must ensure we meet these expectations," said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

He added that the industry has seen a surge in interest from vineyards and wineries in organic and biodynamic grapegrowing and winemaking.

In 2007, New Zealand Winegrowers updated its sustainability policy, aiming to have all New Zealand grapes and wine produced under an independently-audited programme by vintage 2012.

Exports of New Zealand wines have continued to rise this year, Gregan said.

Global export sales rose 14% to almost NZD800m (US$568m) for the 12 months to the end of June, industry figures show, while Australia edged past the UK to become New Zealand's largest wine export market.