grape, grapes handle, vine

Sustainability:

Its Role within the Wine Industry

John Karwoski

You’ve probably heard the terms natural, organic, and vegan applied to wine; they refer to vineyard and winemaking practices. Sustainability is a much broader topic, and whether a regional or national program, includes practices related to winegrowing and native habitat preservation, societal and business concerns, such as worker’s health, safety, and being good neighbors, and being part of the community.

These can be grouped into what is commonly referred to as the “Three E’s” of sustainability:

Environmentally Sound, Economically Feasible, and Socially Equitable.

This article will cover sustainability at a high level, touch on two programs in some detail, and provide resources for key wine-related sustainability organizations and certifications around the globe.

Let’s take a look at two of the programs.

1. Lodi Rules (Certified Green)

With roots going back to 1991 when farmers formed the Lodi Winegrape Commission, Lodi Rules has one of the longest histories in promoting sustainability, starting with the reduction of pesticides in the vineyard by adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Its certification program was put into place in 2005.

As of May 2020, the standard’s 120 rules comprise six sections:

  1. Business Management (including succession planning)
  1. Human Resources Management
  1. Ecosystem Management
  1. Soil Management
  1. Pest Management

Lodi Rules also include a pesticide risk assessment model, based on a pesticide’s impact on workers, flora, and fauna. Certification is awarded annually, and audits are conducted on random vineyards to ensure compliance.


2. South Africa: Integrated Production of Wine (IPW)

South Africa’s IPW program was established in 1998, with the 2000 vintage being the first eligible for certification.

It has separate certifications for winegrowing (“FARM”) and wineries and winemaking, including bottling facilities (“CELLAR”).

As of June 2018, the FARM guidelines have 15 categories, and the CELLAR guidelines have 14 with an additional Bonus category.  Applicants complete an annual self-survey, based on the guidelines (with very detailed information in corresponding manuals). Audits and spot checks are done randomly, including evaluation of grapes during harvest.

Why so many programs?

Just as each country, and each wine region within a country, has its own laws for the types of  grapes permitted, minimum alcohol levels, and percentages of varietals for labeling purposes, the sustainability initiatives have to take local conditions into account.

Whether national or regional, most of these programs have several things in common:

  • Certification requirements that include specifics from the Three Es, relative to terroir and local laws
  • A scoring system
  • Measurement and detailed recordkeeping
  • Auditing to ensure compliance
  • Separate certifications for wine growers and wine makers
  • Seals that can be included on labels

One item that is always covered for winery practices is water use.

How much water does it take to produce one gallon of wine?

The amount of water it takes to produce a product is known as its water footprint.

In 2008, Bob Chrobak, a consultant on water issues for wineries, said “six gallons was a good rule of thumb.” That’s water used in the winery for tasks like cleaning the barrel, equipment, and floors, among others.

water, pump, irrigation

Water use in the winery can be reduced with equipment changes (low flow, high pressure fittings), and by filtering the water so it can be reused, and in changing some practices.

Some wineries have become very aggressive in reducing their water use and are using less than three gallons per gallon of wine, and some, around one gallon.


This, of course, does not include water for irrigation, which will vary widely around the world.

Some wine regions are dry farmed, either by choice or local law. In others, where irrigation can be used, inefficient overhead spraying systems can be replaced by precisely metered drip irrigation systems.

vineyard, grapevine, vine

Drip irrigation promotes deep vine root growth, which leads to healthy vines and most likely, wines with more complexity, when compared to an overhead system which encourages vines’ roots to spread horizontally.

Sustainability Awards


National Awards:

United States


Pacific Northwest

LIVE

Low Input Viticulture and Enology

Salmon Safe

Ensuring clean water so salmon can thrive.


California

Lodi Rules

Scientifically-sound sustainable farming which emphasizes environmentally and socially responsible practices, while keeping economic feasibility in mind for long-term business success.

Sonoma County Winegrowers

As we look toward the future and continue our leadership in sustainability,
Sonoma County Winegrowers has partnered with the California Land Stewardship Institute
to launch a Climate Adaptation Certification program for local winegrowers.
We believe that local solutions are the key to global issues.

California Sustainable Wine Growing Program

Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE) is a certification program that provides verification by a third-party auditor that a winery or vineyard implements sustainable practices and continuous improvement.

Napa Green

Napa Green serves as a catalyst and facilitator to grow certified sustainable, responsible businesses committed to the environmental stewardship and climate action in Napa County.


New Zealand

Did you know that as of May 2020:

  • 98% of New Zealand vineyards are certified sustainable by Sustainable Wine New Zealand?
  • 2,097 vineyards and 149 wineries in California are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance?
  • Several wine growing and wine making areas around the world have their own definition and certification process for sustainable practices?

Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand

Sustainable Winegrowing NZ™ is widely recognised as a world-leading sustainability programme and was one of the first to be established in the international wine industry in 1997.


Australia

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is the Australian wine industry’s sustainability program – set up to support growers and winemakers in demonstrating and improving the sustainability of their businesses.


South Africa

Integrated Production of Wine

IPW complies with international wine industry environmental sustainability criteria, including the ‘Global Wine Sector Environmental Sustainability Principles’ as published by the International Federation of Wine and Spirits (FIVS) and the ‘OIV. Guidelines for sustainable Viti-viniculture: Production, processing and packaging of products’ as published by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).


Italy

Equalitas

EQUALITAS aims to promote the sustainability of the agrifood and wine supply chains, first and foremost, based on a vision and an approach tailored to bringing together businesses, society and the market.


Chile

Sustainability Code of Chile

The Sustainability Code of the Chilean Winemaking Industry is a voluntary standard that guides winemaking companies in the challenge to work sustainably based on requirements in three complementary areas: vineyard, winery-bottling plant, and the social sector.


International


BRIT/FIVS International Sustainable Winegrowing Competition

Since 2010, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) has given its International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing  to wineries that are taking a leading role in sustainable practices. Applicants complete a self assessment and submit two representative bottles of wine for judging.  For 2020, BRIT joined with Federation Internationale des Vins et Spiritueux, a Paris-based international federation of sustainably-minded wine organizations (FIVS), to manage and promote the competition. Past winners include wineries from California, Australia, France, Italy, Texas, Spain, Argentina, and Portugal.

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