The wine industry is flooded with a number of certifications, from sustainable to biodynamic and organic.
Being sustainably certified seems to be an important achievement as more and more consumers lean toward buying sustainable products. However, for most consumers, this certification seems rather vague and confusing, with little explanation of what it truly means. Depending on the country and even state, being sustainability certified can mean different things, and it is important to make those comparisons.
Certifications in Wine
To reward wineries for moving in a more sustainable, organic, or biodynamic direction, there are a few certifications that a winery can achieve. The most common certifications fall under three categories:
Organic: Which means there were no synthetic products used in their vineyards or cellars, including pesticides and additives.
Biodynamic: Which means the wineries have taken additional steps to preserve the environment by incorporating nature and protecting the surrounding ecosystems.
Sustainable: Which means the wineries have taken steps to reduce their waste or carbon footprint.
Of course, their terms are not very specific, which is where the specific certifications reward certain behaviors or practices. This article focuses specifically on the sustainability category and the different certifications within it.
Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)
In order to receive a CCSW, the winery has to meet a certain criteria that covers everything like Environmental Soundness, Economic Feasibility, and Social Equality. There are over 100 areas where the winery is scored on a system from 1-4 based on their water use, energy use, greenhouse gas, and nitrogen use.
SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice)
Just like with the CCWS, the SIP certification cover topics of environment, economy, and social aspects. This certification also works on a point-based system but also requires wineries to create a sustainability plan with ideas and examples of how they plan on bettering the winery.
Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
In New Zealand, wineries that are considered sustainable will be audited every three years. In order to maintain the certification, wineries have to meet a certain criteria on a range of topics, including water usage, crop management, chemical use, winery waste, wine and soil quality, and sustainable business practices. Despite the challenging criteria, almost 100% of the country’s wineries are certified sustainable.
Integrity & Sustainability Certified
This certification is unique to South Africa and covers a range of topics unique to the country. Other than the sustainable use of chemicals, pesticides, and water, the certification also covers the health and safety of the winery’s workers. The wineries are audited every three years and given a certification seal if they comply with the standards.
It is clear that countries around the world are making sustainability a key feature in their wine industry. The consumer demand pressure to reduce their impact is driving more wineries to meet these sustainable requirements. While the certifications may differ and the criteria vary, the key point is that the certifications reward the wineries that meet a strict set of requirements. These certifications simply reward wineries that reduce their environmental impact in a number of ways.
Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) Certified
This certification is specific to the Pacific Northwest, where wineries have a yearly checklist of criteria to meet. The criteria are rather focused on the vineyards, with a great focus on things biodiversity, fertilizers, and irrigation standards. The wineries have to improve on all these aspects and plan ways of bettering them in the future.
Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW)
There are three specific certifications that are used in Australia, SAW being one of them. With this sustainable certification, there are certain practices the winegrowers have to follow, but it is merely focused on the vineyard itself and not what is done in the cellar (unlike many other certifications.)
Within the wine industry, there are hundreds of different certifications that reward wineries for a number of ways they are improving their wine. Some certifications focus on organic practices, while some certifications focus on sustainability.
Within the sustainability sector, different countries and different states have different certifications with a specific criteria a winery needs to meet.
Regardless of the specific certification and criteria, the point is that the certifications reward wineries who have to take the necessary steps to farm more sustainably.