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First California-wide sustainability certification programme launched

More than a dozen California wineries, including the Hess Collection, Sterling Vineyards, J Lohr Vineyards and Winery, E & J Gallo and Fetzer Vineyards, have been certified in a pilot for a state-wide sustainability programme.

The first California-wide programme for independent certification of sustainable winegrowing and business practices for the wine industry was unveiled on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Under the programme, developed over three years by the nonprofit California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, wineries and vineyards voluntarily self-assess their sustainability.

This programme covers vineyards, winery facilities, and their local communities followed by independent audits that result in ratings from 1-4. The ratings would not be carried on wine bottles.

Industry insiders say wineries and grape growers benefit because retailers seek sustainable products. Wine consumers gain because California wine will improve.

Neil Roberts, of Roberts Vineyard Management in Paso Robles, said, ‘Quality in wine means specific vineyard practices like shoot-thinning and irrigation.’

Bill Cooper of Cooper-Gerrod Estate Vineyards added, ‘When other problems in your business have been solved, you are more free to think about quality.’

The California wine industry has had a Sustainable Winegrowing Program since 2002, with 68% of vineyards and wineries participating in various educational and self-assessment measures.

‘This program is seen as a positive, progressive approach to sustainability and as a model by other agricultural sectors like citrus, avocados and rice,’ said Ann Thrupp, director of sustainability at Fetzer Vineyards.

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Written by Janice Fuhrman

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