What's the carbon footprint of California's wine industry?
A new initiative aims to find out, along with the industry averages for water, energy and nitrogen use of the state's mammoth wine industry, which is responsible for 90 percent of U.S. wine production.
The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has introduced a set of new performance metrics to help wineries and grape growers measure and communicate their environmental impacts. Pilot testing of the metrics will begin in the spring, and ultimately, the data will help the CSWA establish industry baselines and set future reduction targets.
"First and foremost, we hope they become a useful tool to help wineries and vineyards focus their efforts on continuous improvement," said CSWA Executive Director Allison Jordan. "Our mantra has been, "You can't manage what you don't measure."
In a phone interview last week, Jordan described how the performance metrics are a natural progression for an industry predisposed to sustainability. It is largely family-owned and multi-generational, Jordan said, and understands its connection to the soil.
Three or four years ago, many wineries began feeling the supply chain pressure from restaurants and retailers asking about their environmental impacts. Now the state's wine industry will have a universal tool to size up their operations and tell their stories. Water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen use are the first metrics, but eventually other metrics may include pest management and social elements.
The metrics will be integrated into the Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP), which was originally launched in 2002 by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. Under the program, grape growers and wineries can already gauge their operations using the Code of Sustainable Practices Self‐Assessment Workbook. The self-assessment has a very high adoption rate, Jordan said, with growers and vintners using the tool representing three-quarters of wine acreage in the state.
"We're fortunate to have a decade of experience in capturing self-evaluation data on practices," Jordan said in a follow-up email. "As the next step in the evolution of the program, we think it's important to link practices to performance outcomes. We hope that, with a robust set of data on both practices and performances, we can start to better understand which specific practices have the most impact on improving energy and water efficiency, on reducing greenhouse gas intensity, for instance."