Green from grapes to glass is the California wine community’s commitment to sustainable wine and winegrowing. At the forefront of this movement is the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). This organization has been promoting sustainable wine and winegrowing practices among California wine growers and vintners for 15 years. Eco News Network caught up with the CSWA to learn more.
April is Down to Earth Month: a month-long celebration of sustainable wine and winegrowing. Wineries around California will offer fun, hands-on workshops, eco-tours, green-themed events, special offers and tastings of sustainable wine.
What is sustainable winegrowing?
Sustainable winegrowing is a comprehensive set of practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable. Sustainable winegrowing is being used by winegrape growers and vintners throughout California to grow and make high quality grapes and wine. These sustainable vineyard and winery practices conserve water and energy, maintain healthy soil, protect air and water quality, enhance relations with employees and communities, preserve local ecosystems and wildlife habitat, and improve the economic vitality of vineyards and wineries.
Ultimately, sustainable winegrowing enables growers and vintners to protect the environment and enhance the communities in which they live and work. Beyond tending the grapes and making wine, many California growers and vintners feel a deep connection to the land itself.
California growers and vintners embrace sustainable wine
California alone makes up 85 percent of U.S. wine production and is the fourth leading wine producer worldwide. Since 2002, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program was created as an educational program to help vineyards and wineries continuously improve in adopting and implementing sustainable practices. More than 2,000 California vineyards and wineries of all sizes – representing nearly three-fourths of winegrape acreage and wine production – have participated in the program.
In addition to CSWA’s educational program, a portion of its participants have taken extra steps to seek CSWA’s third-party certification, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE). California also has a handful of other sustainability certification programs for wine–Lodi Rules, Napa Green and SIP Certified. Combining the results of these programs with CSWA’s CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE, 25% of the statewide acreage and 64% of the statewide case production were certified in 2015. These 1,511 certified vineyards encompass 184,199 acres and the 131 certified wineries produce 172.9M wine cases. In addition, many vineyards and wineries are certified Biodynamic®, California Green Business Program, Fish Friendly Farming and Organic.
Sustainability is a growing factor in wine trade purchasing
New research commissioned by CSWA shows sustainability is a growing factor in retailer and restaurant wine purchasing and that most the U.S. wine trade considers sustainability when making purchasing decisions and expects demand to increase over the next decade. According to the research, a majority of trade respondents either frequently (21%) or occasionally (52%) consider sustainable practices when selecting wines, and the leading reason given for those considerations was response to consumer demand.
While CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE has been an option for vineyards and wineries since 2010, the research findings reaffirmed CSWA’s recent updates to the program to enable use of logo on the bottle. Trade respondents agree that this is one of the most effective ways for a winery to clearly communicate their commitment to sustainability. Following 18 months of development, including more than a dozen meetings by industry and outside experts and a Public Comment period, certification program updates were approved. The program requires certification of both vineyard (grapes) and winery to carry the CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE logo on bottles so the first wines should start appearing in the market following the 2017 harvest in California.
A summary of the CSWA trade survey can be downloaded here.
Want to learn more about California sustainable winegrowing?
You can earn a certificate to become a California Sustainable Winegrowing Ambassador. CSWA and Wine Institute created a free, one-hour, online certificate course that provides a great overview of sustainable winegrowing. Dive in to learn more about what makes California growers and vintners stand out. Take the ambassadors course.
Photo credit: George Rose (c)GRose_Photos provided by California Wine Institute