Vineyards in Napa Valley, as well as in other parts of California, have developed sustainable practices to benefit the environment, wildlife, and ultimately, the quality of the wine they produce. Sustainable practices begin with organic farming, but even more than that, it’s about protecting the environment in which the grapes are grown. This includes minimizing the use of pesticides, protecting wildlife, and using organic practices whenever possible.
If you like wine, you’re probably familiar with the term “sustainable farming” and the associated practices that come with it. But do you actually understand what “sustainable” farming is? Or how California vineyards are using sustainable farming to make the most of their land? In short, sustainable farming promotes using natural resources—such as water and fertilizer—in a way that doesn’t deplete them. Rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers, farmers use compost and other natural fertilizers to replenish the nutrients in the soil. And sustainable farming also means using less water and pesticides to grow crops.
April 22, 2021 – California is the fourth largest wine producing region in the world. With this honorary title, wineries have a great responsibility to protect the land and the environment. In this blog on sustainable and safe food, Lisa Francioni-High explains how the California Sustainable Viticulture Alliance is promoting this approach:
Sustainable wine production involves practices that are environmentally friendly, socially just and economically viable. Grape growers and winemakers, the people who make the wine, follow sustainable practices throughout California to grow and produce high-quality grapes and wine.
Sustainable vineyards and wineries :
- Save water and energy;
- to maintain healthy soil;
- Protection of air and water quality ;
- Improving staff-community relations ;
- Conservation of local ecosystems and wildlife habitats; and,
- to enhance the economic viability of vineyards and wineries.
Here are some examples of sustainable practices:
- Graze sheep and provide habitat for beneficial insects for weed and pest control.
- Use cover crops such as clover, peas and mustard to prevent erosion and improve soil health;
- Install a drip irrigation system to use less water;
- Collect runoff and rainwater to save water and reduce pollution;
- Composting, recycling and reuse of waste such as grape cuttings, pumice, leaves, stems, pressed grapes, etc;
- Conservation of local ecosystems and wildlife habitats to increase biodiversity,
- Organize staff training.
Alliance for sustainable viticulture in California
The California Sustainable Viticulture Alliance is a partnership between growers and winemakers. Founded in 2003, it promotes sustainability from grape to glass. Educational programs have expanded over the past two decades. The state’s grape growers and winemakers have been employing sustainable winemaking practices for decades.
In 2010, the Alliance also created a certification program called Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing. The program has an extensive collection of educational resources, including the California Sustainable Viticulture Code, which covers more than 200 sustainability practices.
As the fourth largest wine producing region in the world, California has one of the most comprehensive and widespread sustainable viticulture programs. A culture of continuous improvement and leadership in sustainable development is created in the community.
What is certified sustainable viticulture in California?
Certified Sustainable Viticulture of California provides the annual third-party audit. The inspectors check whether the winery or vineyard meets the strict standards of sustainable viticulture. The auditors also confirm that the wineries and vineyards are committed to continuous improvement in sustainability.
In addition to applying the necessary methods, the companies decide which areas need to be improved. They focus their resources on practices that will bring the greatest benefits to the achievement of sustainable development goals. Vineyards and wineries must also achieve an overall score to renew certification year after year. They measure and monitor indicators for water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen. They must also respect the restrictions on the use of plant protection products.
Currently, certified California wineries produce 92% of California wine. More than 2,000 vineyards covering 76,672 hectares are certified. Certified wineries get at least 85% of their grapes from certified vineyards, and 100% of the grapes must come from California.
Commitment to the future
California vineyards and wineries are connected to the land. They strive to maintain a healthy and beautiful environment for themselves, their neighbors and visitors to the wine country. Being first and foremost a family business, it makes long-term decisions to pass on a successful business to the next generations. Their commitment to sustainability reflects their desire to be world-class producers, known not only for their high quality wines, but also for their conscientious approach to production.
Francioni-Hai spoke at the American Society of Agronomy’s Sustainable Agronomy 2020 conference. You can listen to his presentation here. (Qualified media representatives may obtain free media access by contacting Susan Fisk, ASA-CSSA Director of Scientific Communications).
For more information on California wines and the industry’s commitment to sustainability, visit www.discovercaliforniawines.com.
For a list of certified organic wines, vineyards and wineries in California, see https://www.sustainablewinegrowing.org/CCSW-certifiedparticipants.php.
About us: This blog is sponsored and maintained by members of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). Our members are researchers and experts who are trained and certified to grow food for the world and protect the environment. They work in universities, government research institutions, and private companies in the United States and around the world.
Learn more about crop science and agronomy by following us on Twitter (@ASA_CSSA_SSSA), Instagram (@sustainablefoodsupply) and Facebook (@ASA.agronomy and @CSSA.crops).
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Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a vineyard sustainable?
A sustainable vineyard is an ecological force that can survive for the long haul. More than just a farm, it is a community of relationships between plants, animals, the soil, and the people who work the land. The health of each of these relationships determines the overall health of the vineyard. As the owner of a sustainable vineyard, you are responsible for ensuring that your land remains viable for the next generation. If you fail to take care of your land, it won’t take care of you. Don’t be the last generation. There are a lot of ways to practice sustainability, but all of them rely on the core principles of conservation, efficiency, and stewardship. A sustainable vineyard is one that prides itself on producing the highest quality wines from the grapes it grows, while also ensuring the preservation of the environment. To do so, sustainable vineyards must pay attention to three main areas: maintaining soil fertility, having an eye towards water conservation, and protecting the natural landscape. Achieving these goals comes with drastic changes to traditional farming practices, but is well worth it—and not only for the health of the vineyard, but also for that of the surrounding environment.
Is Growing grapes sustainable?
While many people think that growing grapes for wine is an easy way to make money, the reality is that it is a difficult business. This is particularly true when it comes to sustainable vineyard management. As a result, growers need to do everything they can to ensure that their vineyards remain productive and profitable in the long term. This means that growers need to do much more than just farm their land well. On average, each bottle of wine takes about one year to make. From planting to harvesting to bottling, it’s a long process that requires a lot of resources. But how sustainable is this process? Is it possible to make wine and grapes in a manner that is good for the planet?
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