Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sustainability in the Vineyard

Ever notice how often fine winemakers combine their pursuit of better winemaking with doing the right thing environmentally? Somehow, making better wine and respecting the environment seems to go hand-in-hand. Sustainability isn’t a constraint for these winemakers, it’s an enabler: helping wines to express their true nature, without additives, undue adjustments, or “enhancements”.

I’ve posted about how biodynamic winemaking is better for the environment. But there are other substantial ways in which individual winemakers are seeking sustainability. And what about initiatives that go beyond individual winemakers, that span an entire region? Two of the world’s pre-eminent wine growing regions recently launched initiatives in sustainability.

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, started in 2001, now offers a certification program, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW-Certified). The goals of the certification program are to “advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices.”

To help allay the appearance of greenwashing, independent auditors review the sustainability practices of these winemakers. 17 companies, listed below, have received certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations:
  • Clos LaChance Wines (Santa Clara County)
  • Concannon Vineyard/Concannon Winery (Livermore)
  • Constellation Wines U.S. (Multiple Counties)
  • Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards (Santa Cruz Mountains)
  • Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines (Napa County)
  • E. & J. Gallo Winery (Sonoma County)
  • Fetzer Vineyards / Bonterra Vineyards (Mendocino County)
  • Goldeneye Winery (Mendocino County)
  • Honig Vineyard & Winery (Napa County)
  • J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines (San Luis Obispo County)
  • Kunde Family Estate (Sonoma County)
  • Meridian Vineyards (San Luis Obispo County)
  • Monterey Pacific Inc. (Monterey County)
  • Roberts Vineyard Services (San Luis Obispo County)
  • Rodney Strong Wine Estates (Sonoma County)
  • The Hess Collection (Napa County)
  • Vino Farms, Inc. (San Joaquin County)
To date, another 1,500 California vintners and growers – representing approximately 60% of the state’s wine production and vineyard acreage – have self-assessed their operations, an intermediate step towards certification.

Meanwhile, Decanter reports that, “Bordeaux is aiming to be 'world leader in winemaking sustainability' with the launch of an Environmental Management System.” The goal of Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) is to reduce the 200,000 tonnes of carbon produced annually by the Bordeaux wine industry by 25% by 2020 and by 75% by 2050. Similar to California, the CIVB will provide training and conduct audits, starting with a pilot study with 20 companies. The intention is for them all to achieve an internationally-recognised standard, ISO 14001.

These regions are trying to do the right thing. We can all do the right thing by keeping an eye out for environmentally-responsible winemakers when we're shopping!

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