This New Label Makes It Easier Than Ever To Identify Sustainable Wines

To earn the label, at least 85 percent of the wine must come from a sustainable vineyard.


May 23 2019, Updated 8:04 p.m. ET

While millions of people around the world love sipping their favorite chardonnay or pinot noir, the wine industry can, unfortunately, have a significant carbon footprint because of the amount of water and energy it consumes. Vineyards and wineries in California have been working to shift towards more eco-friendly production methods the past few years.

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As of this year, they will be given the opportunity to earn a stamp of approval for their efforts. Wine lovers can now easily find wines that are certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance when they see the “California Certified Sustainable” logo on a bottle. 

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The new labels have been specifically approved for 2017 vintage wines and were created to clear up any confusion for consumers. With an array of labels asserting eco-friendly practices in the wine industry, one can see how there’s plenty of head scratching going on. For example, there are labels for biodynamic wines which are made with organic grapes, but there are also west coast wines that are certified as Salmon Safe. This new label certifies the wine itself in an effort to clear up some of the confusion.

To earn the label the wine must be made in certified wineries with 85 percent or more of grapes from certified vineyards. The wine must, of course, also be 100 percent from California. These requirements include factors such as water efficiency, pest management, energy efficiency, stewardship, and safe work conditions.

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So who gets to choose which wineries and vineyards are sustainable enough to earn the badge? The Sustainable Winegrowing Program first came together in 2001 to promote sustainable vineyard and winery practices. The organization was put together by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), who represent hundreds of wineries and grape growers in the state. 

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The team wrote the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices as a guide for vintners and growers to improve their overall sustainability, and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) was born to help implement the program. Third parties are brought in so they can determine which wineries and vineyards meet the standards to be certified without bias.

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The program has come a long way, and the CSWA recently published its 2017 sustainability report revealing the success of its long-term campaign to encourage sustainable wine making practices. According to their report, many companies have come on board and met the many requirements for certification since 2010. 

In fact, as of last November, 127 wineries and 1099 vineyards are now certified under the program. That’s kind of a big deal, since those wineries produce over 74 percent of all the state’s wines. The report also revealed that interest in sustainable practices is growing, as 46 percent more wineries joined the program last year.

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According to the Wine Institute, Allison Jordan, CSWA’s Executive Director, said “The commitment to sustainability by California growers and vintners is truly impressive. This new report details examples of their high level of commitment. CSWA has publicly shared results since the inception of the program and this report advances the transparency we believe is critical for a credible certification program.” 

Some of the wineries that will be sporting the new labels on their 2017 vintages will include Ponte Winery, Marimar Estate, and Jackson Family Wines. So far, the CSWA has already received Wine Label Notification Forms for nearly 200,000 cases of California wine.

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