Sustainable Wine Review: Beyond Organic - Eat Drink Better

Sustainable Wine Review: Beyond Organic

Barra of Mendocino, California
Barra of Mendocino (CA) farms 200+ acres of certified organic grapes.

This is the first post in a weekly series on sustainable wines.

According to the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), 1,500 vintners and growers in our great state have participated in sustainable winegrowing programs, representing 60% of California’s wine production and winegrape acreage.  Its fair to say that sustainability in the wine industry is no longer the exception, but rather the rule.

For many folks, the first thing they think of when talking about sustainability and wine is organic grapes.  While this is a very logical place to start, sustainability in the wine industry encompasses so much more.

To one producer it means organic grapes, to another it means water conservation, to another it means minimizing packaging to another it means triple bottom line. Those of us who want to eat and drink better want to know how to sort it all out.  Hence, the birth of this series. And since it means so many things to so many people, it seems to make sense to layout the ground rules. To spell it out, we are going to be talking about sustainable wines that embrace all or some of the following sustainable practices:

Grapes: The two most consumer-recognizable farming practices for grapes are organic (which is a USDA certification) and biodynamic (a third-party non-profit certification). Every day more producers are embracing organic and biodynamic farming practices.

Water Use: Wine is an agricultural product and no one better than a farmer understands the importance of water conservation. Many vineyards are focusing on using low-water-use, high-efficiency equipment, making strategic use of water for irrigation, selecting rootstocks and employing viticulture practices that reduce water consumption and reducing the amount of water used in cleaning.

Energy efficiency: You can be sure, like all other businesses around the globe, wine producers are looking for sure energy savers and larger energy efficiency opportunities. The CSWA reports that over the last four years, 359 energy-efficiency projects resulted in California wineries eliminating 30,371 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the equivalent of removing 4,226 cars off the road for one year. Practices include everything from solar projects, high-efficiency lighting and insulated wine tanks to gravity flow designs for movement of the grapes and efficient wastewater treatment systems.

Packaging and Transportation: I know you’re thinking packaging and transportation.  But, truthfully, the way a product is packaged matters a lot environmentally. We will find wineries that use packaging made from earth-friendly materials, use boxes, cases, mailers, and partitions made out of the highest post-consumer waste materials available and strive to reduce package-to-product ratios. This all impacts their transportation practices—a huge part of very wineries carbon footprint—so we will find wine producers that think about minimizing packaging because when you reduce the size of packaging, you not only reduce the amount of materials used but you reduce the amount of space and energy required to manufacture and ship it.

CSR: The triple bottom line is starting to make its way into more and more wine producers ethos. But, its still not a given to find wineries that work to cultivate a a sense of social responsibility into their operations. But, they are out there and we’ll find them.

If there is anything else you’d like to talk about please let me know!

Photo: Barra of Mendocino

This is cross-posted at my blog at Vinecrowd.com where I am one of the founders.

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About the Author

is a former marketing consultant who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn her hand to creative non-fiction. Jennifer continues to write about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - follow her on and .