We consume nearly 7 billion gallons wine (alcohol.org) every year and over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine (wineandvineanylytics.com)! Irrigation, frost prevention, sprays, and winery water use all contribute to this massive impact. In fact, the alcoholic beverage industry is considered one of the “dirtiest” sectors in our global economy.
The symptoms of climate change abound—rising temperatures, droughts, fires, and natural disasters—and we simply can’t ignore this impact. Especially because, according to research, we have only until 2030 to reverse the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature that (nasa.gov) is considered to be the threshold for “tolerable” global warming. Even more catastrophic for those of us in wine, is that if global temperature were to rise 2 degree Celsius, we would lose half of the world’s wine regions
What is Sustainability in Wine?
While the notion of sustainability is broad, there is general consensus that sustainable practices are those that meet present needs without compromising the needs of future generations. The practice of sustainability not only recognizes ecological wellness, but also the integration of social equity and economic vitality. It is a concept so critical that the United Nations established goals for sustainable development to be achieved by 2030.
But how do we define sustainability in wine? Sustainability isn’t an absolute, and Europe has its own rubric for designating wines as sustainable, but in the U.S. the concept has become more formed. The California Association of Wine Growers and the Wine Institute created the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) program which since 2003 has defined sustainable winegrowing and wine making practices as those that are:
• sensitive to the environment (Environmentally Sound),
• responsive to the needs and interests of society-at-large (Socially Equitable), and
• are economically feasible to implement and maintain (Economically Feasible).
Sustainability Saves Wine
As the fourth largest wine-producer in the world, California’s efforts to certify sustainability can make a difference, while encouraging other states to follow suit. Programs such as Napa Green, SIP Certified, and Fish Friendly Farming are other programs on the path to sustainability. And while sustainable doesn’t necessarily mean “organic,” most sustainable wines are. Vegan wines that evade animal agricultural products—the second largest producer of greenhouse gasses—are also more sustainable.
Grapes are like the canary in the coal mine as they are sensitive to changes in climate and we are already seeing producers scramble to plant more heat-resilient varietals. Unless we want to see our beloved wine regions wiped out, we need to take conscious steps now to save future wine. Therefore, seek out wines from producers that are working to preserve our winemaking ability for the future. Enjoy your wine with a long-term view now so we can all clink glasses together in the future!
Salud to Sustainability!
Your Jefas, Erlinda and Martha
EDUCATE. EMPOWER. ELEVATE. THROUGH WINE.