These days, it seems that everyone is talking about “sustainability” or “going green.” However, these terms are somewhat confusing and difficult to classify. Over the past few decades, the concept of sustainable viticulture has emerged and is spreading awareness to grape growers and winemakers across the United States and beyond.
The idea of “sustainable agriculture” can be traced back to the organic farming practices of the 1950’s and the earth movement of the 1970’s. In terms of winegrowing and winery practices, the concept of sustainability took shape in the early 1990’s (Mitry 2009). The growers and winemakers surrounding the town of Lodi, California were the first to acknowledge such practices. In 1995, the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission set out to establish and implement a program that would educate the industry about responsible viticulture practices. In 2002, they published the Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook: A self-assessment of integrated farming practices. Not only has the workbook influenced the state of California, but it has encouraged other states to launch similar programs. Although much has been done to transform the ecological and social impact of the Viticulture industry, many obstacles remain in educating the market and improving environmental practices in vineyards and wineries nationwide.
One obstacle to overcome is characterizing what constitutes a sustainable vineyard or winery. There is no universally accepted definition and the paradigm continues to evolve (Ohmart 2008). In 2001, the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and the Wine Institute formed a joint committee to come up with a program that could be implemented throughout the state. The committee crafted a three part definition often referred to as the 3 E’s. Wine growing and wine making practices that are sensitive to the environment, responsive to the needs and interests of society-at-large, and are economically feasible to implement and maintain are considered to be sustainable (Mitry 2009). From this definition, the California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices (SWP) was shaped. The comprehensive program encompasses research, education, farming and processing activities, self-evaluation techniques, and a community forum to identify and resolve environmental and social concerns (Moulton and Zwane 2005). California sustainable practices have been the cornerstone for many programs nationwide to define and set forth standards for responsible winegrowing.
Another difficulty regarding sustainability in viticulture is implementation. Even if standards and definitions have been set forth, interpreting them in to a workable program is different. Environmental impacts associated with growing wine grapes are agricultural in nature, while those in the winery are related to food processing (Cordano 2005). Therefore, these definitions must be translated in to farming practices and executed in the wine making process. When the Lodi growers were...