What does the certification “Sustainable” mean on a wine bottle?
Sustainability on a bottle means that the producer complies according to the stated regulating body.
Usually it has something to do with the following:
*reduced wastefulness practices in their vineyards, winery
*social responsibility in their community
* responsible business practices in the vineyard, winery, and marketplace
* responsible winemaking
Because sustainability definitions vary by region, country, and regulating body there are many different ways that a producer can achieve sustainable status. For example using only recycled glass and corks, using highly efficient watering systems to reduce water waste, shipping in bulk to reduce carbon emissions, avoiding pesticides, supporting local wildlife, or using renewable energies to power the winery.
In addition to ecological sustainability there are also certifications that consider social sustainability and impacts on the community. Requirements for this type of certification may concern worker safety, fair wage practices, and equal opportunity employment. This is especially prevalent in regions like South Africa that have had extreme social and/or political instability.
Though sustainability tends to mean ecologically responsible, it is not the same as certified organic or biodynamic. There is however a lot of overlap with many sustainable producers also being organically farmed.
Why shop for sustainable wines?
For the same reasons you buy fair trade coffee, organic produce, and use energy-saving appliances! Keep in mind that due to the costs associated with certifications of any type with wine, not everyone gets certified even if they qualify. Quick research on a producer’s website can help you learn about their practices and sustainability goals.
Fun Sustainability Facts:
* Salmon Safe is a sustainability certification in areas of the Pacific Northwest which have strict requirements regarding water management, specifically run-off into local streams and bodies of water, in order to protect native salmon habitats.
* Producers are increasingly opting to ship wines in bulk in large containers rather shipping bottles. This reduces carbon emissions (as well as costs to ship!) in the process immensely.
* Almost 100% of wineries in New Zealand are certified sustainable!
* Carbon neutral vineyards are those which rely 100% on renewable energy sources. There is some disagreement as to how one can truly determine that a vineyard is actually carbon neutral due to the mind-numbing amount of factors that would need to be calculated and considered, i.e. does the gasoline in the workers’ cars to come to work or the equipment made in factories powered by non-renewable energies count?
* Dry Farming (=zero irrigation) is a technique being employed by some sustainable vineyards.
* It’s estimated that Sonoma will be 100% Sustainable vineyards by 2019.
Aubrie Talarico is part of Eno’s team that answers your toughest questions or curiosities about wine, beer, spirits, sake, and cider. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and read the answers in Eno’s E-newsletter!
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