US seeks green certification
Published:  21 March, 2008

Californian winemakers want an all-encompassing sustainability certification to help market their environmental efforts to the trade and consumers.

Paul Dolan, the former winemaker at organic estate Fetzer and a leader in developing commercially viable sustainable winemaking practices, spoke about the different ways Californian winemakers are trying to help the environment - while also making better wine - at a seminar on the subject during the state's annual London press and trade tasting on Mar 10.

Dolan's own project, Parducci, is the first carbon neutral winery in California. He was also a pioneer of organic and biodynamic winemaking and has been involved in compiling a guide to sustainable winemaking practices, which covers everything from soil and pest management in the vineyard through waste reduction and recycling to effects on air and water quality.

There are now various ways Californian winemakers can assess their sustainable practices - including the Lodi Rules, the Central Coast Vineyard Team, Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming. But Dolan said it was difficult to certify these practices because becoming more environmentally friendly should be an ongoing process.

"One of the challenges we have in California is to create a certification that is consistent with the needs of the retailer but also fulfils the need of the consumer so they know what they are getting. It takes time and it has taken a long time for customers to get to grips with organics," he said.

John McLaren, UK director of the California Wine Institute, said: "Sustainability is perhaps a bigger deal for California than for the rest of the wine world, probably because we got to it a bit sooner and developed it.

"Something like one-third of Californian vineyards are now in the process [of signing up to some type of sustainable initiative].

"Sustainability is a difficult thing to certify. A lot of the wineries look to do some bits of it and not others; they find some practices easier to adopt.

"Representing California from a marketing standpoint, I would like to see certification. At the moment there are levels, and that can be very confusing.

"We need to get to a point where we can proudly say so much of California is [sustainably produced] and everybody knows what it means. We have got a long way to go even in the industry, never mind with the consumer, but that is the future."

In the meantime, Dolan suggested that retailers should create sections for all wines made with some kind of sustainable practices, improve consumers' awareness.

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