Wine Industry Uncorks First Sustainability Report

Wine Industry Uncorks First Sustainability Report

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has presented its first report measuring the level of sustainable practices among vintners and growers on a statewide basis.

The report (click here to download executive summary) is the first time an entire industry sector has used a common assessment tool to document the adoption of sustainable practices among its members and reported the results publicly.

The group was established in 2003 by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) to promote environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the California wine community.

Wine Institute and CAWG initiated the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2001 to help the state earn a reputation as the world leader in the adoption of sustainable winegrowing practices. More than 70 workshops have been held throughout California to support the industry’s implementation and expansion of sustainable practices. Workshop participants evaluate their vineyard and winery operations using a 490-page workbook of best management practices, developed by a Joint Committee of 50 members from Wine Institute, CAWG and other key stakeholders. The evaluation results collected from the workshops are contained in the report, and represent about 40 percent of the California’s 260 million case production and 25 percent of its 529,000 wine acres.

To support the Sustainable Winegrowing Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has awarded a $475,000 matching fund grant for the development of air and water quality innovations. This will include educational materials, such as a new air quality chapter in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing workbook and the establishment of air quality and water quality demonstration sites throughout California to showcase innovative technologies and practices.

“This federal grant builds upon the support received from CDFA and the American Farmland Trust, and will help continue the momentum of the program to increase participation and show constant improvement. Consumers will appreciate our efforts in being responsible stewards of the land and good neighbors, while maintaining the long-term viability of businesses that contribute significantly to the state’s economy,” said Robert P. Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute, the public policy advocacy group for nearly 800 California wineries and affiliated businesses. “The Sustainable Winegrowing Program represents a great legacy to pass on to future generations of winegrowers, and can serve as a model for other agricultural commodities.”

“California growers and vintners are committed to taking a leadership role in producing the finest quality wines with sustainable practices. We are in the process of analyzing the data gathered from the workbook assessments and determining where we should focus our next efforts,” said Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. “The strong participation of the wine community, stakeholders, scientists, and government officials have lent credibility to the project and moved it into mainstream thinking and part of our everyday effort.”

The new 2004 Sustainability Report provides baseline information for 13 areas of sustainable winegrowing practices. The results indicate widespread adoption of sustainable management practices in many critical areas including: water conservation, pesticide risk reduction and soil management. It also points out areas that need to be addressed such as energy conservation, material handling and environmentally preferred purchasing. Dealing with these issues will require time, money, innovation and, in some cases, outside expertise, new technologies, an improved regulatory framework, and partnerships.

“We’ve created a peer-to-peer education and outreach approach that fosters collaboration and raises the bar on the adoption of sustainable practices,” said CSWA Chairman, Steve Quashnick of Quashnick Farms in Acampo. “As our knowledge base expands, we will strive to integrate new practices, procedures, and technologies that support our vision of long-term sustainability.”

“While the population of California increases dramatically each year, placing vineyards and wineries in closer proximity to non-farming communities, the positive response of California’s vintners and growers to the Sustainable Winegrowing Program demonstrates the industry’s commitment to producing high quality wines in a manner that balances social, environmental and economic principles,” said Past CSWA Chairman Paul Dolan of Mendocino Wine Company in Ukiah.