California Wine Leading the Way in Sustainable WinegrowingSAN FRANCISCO — Consumers consider a number of things in purchasing wine: occasion, taste, quality, price, packaging, third-party recommendations and other factors. Add to this mix the demand for products with environmental and social attributes. Research indicates that this is an important consideration for a significant segment of the consuming public. According to a 2007 Sustainability Survey by The Hartman Group, 77 percent of the respondents "think it's important to buy environmentally friendly products," and 75% are "nearly four times as likely to pay a 10% premium for sustainable products" and think these purchases have an impact on society.1 Other research from the Natural Marketing Institute2 says that just over "70 percent of consumers indicate that knowing a company is mindful of their impact on the environment and society makes them more likely to buy those products or services, and 50 percent state it makes them more likely to buy their stock." It is no small surprise that increasing numbers of businesses are building sustainability into their company philosophies and producing products that appeal to "green buying" customers. The California wine community has long been committed to environmentally and socially responsible practices and is responding to these consumer trends. Sustainable practices improve the long-term viability of businesses and enhance wine quality as well as relations with employees and neighbors. The industry, through Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, made a major investment introducing the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing in 2002 to document and increase the level of adoption of these practices. They later established the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) to continue implementation. The program has earned the California wine community numerous awards and a reputation as the wine world's leader in sustainability. A comprehensive workbook of best practices has been developed, and educational workshops have been held throughout California to encourage expansion of the practices. To date, more than 1,250 participants have evaluated their vineyards and wineries at over 110 workshops. This response represents 40 percent of California wine production and 125,000 vineyard acres, with more participants joining the program each day. While California continues to scientifically document and expand sustainable winegrowing, wineries are increasingly beginning to communicate their environmental message. To help consumers gain a better understanding of some of the terms being used in the marketplace, the following definitions are offered. Vintners and growers can be using a combination of these methods, and many do not necessarily seek certification for their vineyards or special labeling for their wines. Sustainable Winegrowing is defined as environmentally friendly, socially equitable and economically feasible. It is a comprehensive program to protect the environment, encompassing hundreds of best management practices in the winery, vineyard and with neighbors. Specific practices include activities such as recycling, conserving energy and water, protecting air and water quality, reducing pesticide use, composting, and using cover crops to build soil health and attract beneficial insects. It means maintaining surrounding ecosystems to preserve biological diversity and wildlife habitat. Sustainability assures the well-being of employees and encourages more communication with neighbors. CSWA board members and key stakeholders are currently discussing the development of third-party review of participation in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing. Nearly all California wineries currently practice some level of sustainability and the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing program, the first of its kind, differentiates their wines as representative of these outstanding leadership efforts as environmentalists. See www.sustainablewinegrowing.org for the California wine community's Sustainability Report, which documents the adoption and progress of this major statewide initiative.
Organic Wine and WinegrapesCalifornia has nearly 8,000 wine type acres that are certified organic, and much of the fruit is used by wineries that label their wines "organic" or "made with organically grown grapes." Both are made with grapes grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides for a period of at least three years with third-party inspection. The key difference between the two is that wines labeled "organic" do not have added sulfites to sustain prolonged shelf life and must have laboratory certification that the wine contains 10 parts per million or less sulfites. Labels for "Organic" and "made with organically grown grapes" are approved both by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau and FDA's National Organic Program.
Biodynamic WineAbout two dozen California wineries practice biodynamic agriculture. The methods are based on principles developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's. Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic system where soil is nurtured through natural remedies, and planting, harvesting and bottling take place according to the positions of the planets and lunar phases. Natural animal and vegetable matter is applied to soil to strengthen it, and various homeopathic herbal and mineral preparations are added to help the soil maximize light and heat for photosynthesis. The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau is allowing the biodynamic term, appearing on back labels to date, provided the winery provides third-party certification of its biodynamic winemaking practices. Consumer concerns for the welfare of their families, the earth and the future of society is driving the growing interest in many "green" products and industries. The California wine community has the same concerns for the long-term well-being of its families and businesses. The widespread practice of sustainability and other alternatives has demonstrated this deep commitment. 1 The Hartman Group, Inc. Copyright 2007. http://www.foodalliance.org/industryevent/Hartman.pdf
2 Natural Marketing Institute (2005) Corporate Social Responsibility: Consumer Understanding and Influence. http://www.nmisolutions.com/press080205.html
Revised on Dec 5, 2007