Sustainable Practices

Neighborly Practices

I was looking up a date on my calendar the other day, and the picture shows a beautiful view of a winery on top of a hill with a pristine wetlands pond in the foreground.  The calendar is the Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Calendar put out by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

The Alliance was created in 2003 to conduct public outreach on the benefits of widespread adoption of sustainable winegrowing practices, and to enlist industry commitment and assist in effective implementation.   It grew out of collaboration between the California Association of Winegrape Growers and Wine Institute (CAWG).  In October of 2002 they rolled out a Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, a voluntary self assessment tool for California winemakers and growers.  This year Wine Institute and CAWG will issue a first annual “California Wine Community Sustainable Report” using the data collected so far.

February’s calendar theme is water conservation and quality.  The caption reads, “A properly constructed process water system provides wetlands habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, and creates beautiful landscapes that improve the wine tourism experience.” Water quality and population growth are certainly of local concern to our region, and are hot political buttons as well. So let’s take a behind the scenes look at the work the wine industry engages in to deal with the business of doing business responsibly.

As California’s population explodes, currently growing at 600,000 people per year, land will become an increasingly precious commodity. The Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices is a way to communicate that winegrowers and winemakers are stewards of the land, striving to sustain the industry for generations to come. By trying to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities, the Code will help the wine industry share its story and history of responsible farming and winemaking.

Whether we like it or not, the world-wide trend to legislate environmental procedures is coming.  It has become apparent that on an international scale, regulatory and governmental bodies are willing to make more sweeping environmental decisions. Many businesses are moving ahead of the curve, and are now set to adopt the environmental practices being outlined through the ISO 14001 standards, a comprehensive set of standards for all types of business to apply which measures incorporation of “Environmental Management Systems” and is verified by an accredited international body. These standards will require that businesses, throughout a supply chain, conform to environmental management system applications in their business practices.

The Wine Industry, by initiating the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices workshops across the state, is ahead of this curve.   Self governance versus legislation.  The Wine Industry has been assessing itself for about a year; it will be interesting to see the results of the first annual report.  But from what I’ve seen of the local industry, neighborly concern and healthy vines have been in practice for many generations.

By building on practices that are working, embracing progressive attitudes and raising cultural and community awareness, Wine Institute and CAWG intend to create a win-win environment for everyone in the wine industry, and for the communities that live close to the natural beauty of vine-clad hills and vales.


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