Winegrowers Launch Third-Party Sustainability Program

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), established by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, announced Thursday the introduction of a statewide certification program that provides third-party verification of a winery or vineyard’s adherence to a “process of continuous improvement” in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.

Open to all California wineries and vineyards as a voluntary option, CSWA’s new program, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, requires applicants to meet 58 prerequisite criteria to be eligible for the program, assess winery and/or vineyard operations, create and implement an annual action plan and show improvement over time.

The goals of the new certification program are to enhance transparency, encourage statewide participation and advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices. Three years in the making, the certification program is the first statewide program available to both wineries and vineyards.

In addition, CSWA released its 2009 Wine Community Sustainability Report measuring the California wine industry’s adoption over five years of 227 best management practices from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook.

“Third-party certification helps California’s wine community speed efforts to create a healthier environment, stronger communities and vibrant businesses,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO. “The program reflects the California wine community’s commitment to continually produce the finest quality wine and grapes with practices that are environmentally and socially responsible.”

“The scale on which California’s wine community is adopting and expanding sustainable practices is truly impressive, as the state is the fourth leading wine producer in the world,” said California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Board Chairman Kim Ledbetter Bronson of Vino Farms in Lodi. “CSWA’s mission is to bring recognition to the California wine industry as a change leader in the global marketplace and serve as a model for other industries.”

To date, 1,566 vineyard and winery organizations representing 68% of California’s 526,000 wine acres and 63% of the state’s 240 million case shipments have evaluated their vineyards and wineries with CSWA’s Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook. Wine Institute and CAWG established the Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2002 and incorporated CSWA a year later as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to continue implementing the program.

“When you discuss sustainability within the California wine community, it is not just a statement of a program but an imbedded philosophy that we live by each and every day,” said CSWA Board Chairman Chris Savage, Senior Director of Environmental Affairs at E. & J. Gallo Winery. “It is the commitment to this philosophy and the very positive impact it has on our businesses that will ensure the continued growth of the California wine industry long into the future.”

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