Thursday, January 28, 2010

California Sustainable Winegrowing Program - steps towards certification

Sustainability as defined by three overlapping principles of Environmentally Sound, Economically Feasible and Socially Equitable

As announced on January 13, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has launched their new third-party certification program. Now, what steps do the take to achieve this certification? Requirements for the certification include:

  • An annual Self-Assessment using the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Workbook and supporting evidence to demonstrate accuracy of category choices (1-4) or non-applicability for certain SWP criteria during a regularly scheduled third-party audit
  • Meet all 58 prerequisites by scoring a 2 or higher for specific criteria, or have an action plan in place to improve performance*
  • Demonstration of a process for identifying the key sustainability issues for their company, prioritizing areas for improvement, and establishing Action Plans that are implemented and updated annually
  • The ability to demonstrate practices that maintain or improve category choices (1-4) for SWP criteria and methods to correct any items identified internally or by an auditor as inconsistent with SWP Self-Assessment categories
  • Demonstration of continual improvement over time
  • Signed commitment to the Code of SWP, continual improvement, and applicable legal requirements

The prerequisites covered in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook include practices that protect air and water quality, conserve water, promote energy efficiency and reduced pesticide use, and preserve ecosystems and animal habitat, among many others. CSWA offers educational workshops, resources and tools to assist wineries and growers through these various stages.

See other articles about Sustainable Winegrowing Program

The Sustainable Winegrowing Program then verifies a winery and/or vineyard’s assessment results through a third-party auditor. To retain their certification, participants undergo annual audits to verify that winery/vineyard self-assessments and action plans are updated annually, and that their operations show improvement. Onsite audits take place the first year and then every third year after that, and involve activities such as internal inspections and verification of corrective and preventative action processes.

To date, nearly 1,500 vintners and growers, representing approximately 60% of the state’s wine production and vineyard acreage, have self-assessed their operations at 125 workshops as a first step towards certification.

Once certified the participants can use the logo and/or claims on certified company web sites, secondary marketing materials and in certified winery facilities or vineyards. CSWA will also list certified wineries and vineyards on the CSWA web site. Because of current eco-label protocols and discussions by both industry and government on this issue, use of logo and claims on wine bottles is not permitted at this time.

Wineries and vineyards can still participate in CSWA’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program without applying for certification. They can complete self-assessments, attend workshops and communicate that they participate in the educational Sustainable Winegrowing Program.

Seventeen companies have received certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations after participating in a pilot program to test the certification requirements and offer feedback. They are: Clos LaChance Wines; Concannon Vineyard/Concannon Winery; Constellation Wines U.S.; Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards; Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines; Fetzer Vineyards/Bonterra Vineyards; E. & J. Gallo Winery; Goldeneye Winery; The Hess Collection; Honig Vineyard & Winery; J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Kunde Family Estate; Meridian Vineyards/Taz Vineyards; Monterey Pacific, Inc.; Roberts Vineyard Services; Rodney Strong Wine Estates; and Vino Farms.

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