Sustainability in Wine
Many industries are now focused on the “triple-bottom-line” of balancing economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability — addressing the concerns of both internal and external stakeholders: the physical environment, job security, workplace environment for employees, relationships with community and the ability of business to remain viable and profitable. The goal is to make sure future generations are not negatively impacted by decisions we make today.
Let’s explore what motivates sustainability in the wine industry around the world.
The sustainability performance of the wine industry does not receive as much media coverage as some other industries. Nevertheless, environmental stewardship in winegrowing–responsible use of persticides and herbicides, fertilizers, management of scarce water resources, soil erosion, and solid and organic waste, in addition to the overuse of of available tracts of land– has received much attention within the industry itself. Many wines have been produced and sold as certified organic or biodynamic wines.
Many external factors motivate sustainability in the wine sector, including effects of the environment on the winemaking process and the effect climate change can have on crops. Different varieties of grapes used for winemaking must be grown within certain average temperature margins in order for them to achieve adequate maturity.
Thus, climate change could potentially lead to the creation of new vineyards in areas that are currently unusable due to their harsh climates and will dramatically impact many of the most famous wine-producing regions in the world today, while prompting the opening of new areas to wine production in unusual places.
Wine Sustainability Programs Around the Globe
In response to increasing concerns from consumers, government regulators, retailers and other stakeholders, national and regional wine industry associations around the globe have developed and promoted various environmental management systems or sustainability systems to their members. The systems typically foster improved environmental health, while some also have a focus on increased social responsibility and economic viability. Notable among these are systems in Australia, Bordeaux, California, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa – designed to bring wine suppliers into the sustainability process. While these systems vary due to local climatic, environmental and social conditions they are all comprehensive and based on legal requirements, significant stakeholder concern, environmental and social impact, economic feasibility, potential risk to the company and certification of vineyards and wineries for compliance, and typically cover:
- Soil Management
- Vineyard Water Management
- Pest Management
- Wine Quality
- Ecosystem Management
- Bio-diversity and Wildlife Protection
- Energy Efficiency
- Winery Water Conservation & Quality
- Material Handling
- Solid Waste Reduction
- Environmentally preferred purchasing
- Human Resources
- Neighbors & Community
- Air Quality
My work takes me to wine regions around the world where I have had the opportunity to meet with winemakers and taste a selection of their wines, all produced sustainably.
In the Pauillac appellation of Bordeaux, Pontet-Canet has one of the largest productions of any classified growth in the Medoc. Grapes are harvested by hand at Pontet-Canet.
Jean Michel Comme, Technical Director of Chateau Ponet-Canet is following a biodynamic approach to produce his wines. This is more than a program or technique,” he said. It’s a philosophy of life, a vision of nature. It doesn’t compete with nature. When there is a problem with the vine, we need to know why the fungus erupted and became a disease. We need to understand the disease and protect the plant, not just kill the disease. Biodynamic is active and efficient and improves the quality of the grape and therefore of the wine, allowing you to make more money.
Like many Bordeaux producers, Andre Lurton has its own well-established sustainability program involving balanced fertilization, biodiversity preservation, water management, health and safety and employee communications. In addition, it has joined the recently launched 1st Association of EMS for Bordeaux wines, a unique program of cooperation and shared risks among 24 Bordeaux producers.
The Trefethen family has worked to preserve agricultural lands in California since in 1968, and has become a model for sustainability in Napa. It farms with a biodynamic approach, implements nearly all-organic practices and all facilities and operations are solar powered. It has a water strategy for reuse and recycling in the winery, capturing rainwater and almost never using virgin water from its nearby creeks. Marketing its sustainability story to customers, especially its wine club members, has created loyalty among customers who appreciate the high quality wine and the traditions of environmental preservation and family ownership.
Caliterra is a leader in developing Chile’s sustainability program and one of the first companies to be certified. Market forces led them to pursue sustainability. The Chilean program emerged from a growing awareness of international consumers for environmentally friendly and socially responsible products. In particular a shift in purchasing practices by Nordic governments requiring stricter standards for accountability pushed Chile to move forward with the launch of its Sustainability Code.
This journal entry was the first in a series on sustainability in the wine industry. Check back often, as I’ll continue to share insights on sustainable wines and how consumers can become more aware of this “green” trend in wine. I’ll also introduce some high quality and great tasting wines that are sustainably produced and share the stories of the winemakers’ commitment to these growing practices.