What Sustainability Means in the California Wine Industry
One of the more recent Guild of Sommeliers podcasts out takes a look into the practice of sustainability in wineries, what it requires from the growers and winemakers, and the outcomes of practicing it. One of the featured guests on the show said something to the effect of (and don’t quote me) if you’re shopping for only organic foods, yes, the product has not had contact with certain pesticides or herbicides, but the carbon footprint of that product may be much higher than the same crop grown close to home in a sustainable way.
Sustainable is not organic. Organic farming, organic wine and many other “organic” products require a specific FDA certification, prohibits certain chemicals and other strict regulations. (Disclaimer: this is not an argument that one is better than the other, we’re just stating facts).
Sustainability may seem like another marketing buzzword, but after taking the time to look into what it really means, it encompasses a large part of the business to ensure that three specific facets are preserved for the long run.
There are two major regions in California practicing sustainability: Sonoma Valley and the Central Coast. Sonoma Valley’s goal includes becoming the first 100% sustainable wine region in the world by 2019. Here’s what some of the goals are. SIP (Sustainable in Practice) Certification calls them the “3 E’s: economic viability, environmental stewardship, and social equity.
- Budgeting and long term planning
- Tracking and reviewing financial status (with advisor if necessary)
- Proper insurance
- Adhering to a list of prohibited materials list
- Conservation and enhancement of biological diversity
- Vineyard development – choosing the best rootstocks for the varietal and land, keeping in mind water intake, canopy management, vine and row spacing
- Water Conservation and Irrigation Monitoring
- Pollution minimizing and air quality
- Fair wages for workers and benefits
- Continuous Training
Some great examples of sustainability in action:
Jackson Family Wines partnered with Tesla earlier this year to install its “new energy storage technology” which captures and saves solar power. JFW estimates it will save $2 million (approximately 40% of their electricity bill). Their goal is to “generate 50 percent of our power from renewable sources by 2020.”