What do you think "sustainable" should mean, for a winery?
Here's our chance to try to make an impact, instead of the big wineries that provide most of the Wine Institute's funding.
Allison Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, offered me the opportunity Monday to present her with my suggestions for what the requirements to use the "certified sustainable" logo should be.
I blogged yesterday at length that currently, the program's certification is meaningless. But it doesn't have to be. I am a believer in the concept of sustainable agriculture and think it has a place in the industry as an alternative to organic or biodynamic agriculture.
The problem with organic certification is that it's too rigid, not allowing exceptions in exceptional circumstances. I'm in Texas right now and just visited with two wineries that got no crops two years in a row. Try telling them that it's most important to follow organic rules. As for biodynamics, it seems effective but at its heart it's religion, not science.
However, as I wrote yesterday, if you're going to certify something, you need standards. So what should they be?
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I plan to look through the CSWA's existing guidebook, which is here (www.sustainablewinegrowing.org/docs/Certification%20Guidebook.pdf -- sorry, for some reason blogger can't handle this link), and suggest what I think the minimum requirements should be on the points they already have listed.
For example, take point 12.12.9, "Shrink wrap and plastic." A winery can currently dump all of its plastic in the Napa River and still be certified sustainable. I don't know yet whether I would request the minimum be Category 3, which requires plastic to be recycled, or I would be satisfied with Category 2, in which plastic just needs to be "placed in a solid waste container." But Category 1, for which the plastic disposal requirement is, literally, "None," is clearly not good enough -- yet that's all the CSWA asks at the present.
I will consider the CSWA's political position, which is that it's more beneficial to get many wineries to improve a little, thus uplifting the industry as a whole. That's why I don't immediately say, "You have to recycle." But come on folks, if you allow "None" or "N/A" as a minimum standard on a point, why bother including that point at all?
I pledge to post next week on this blog my suggestions for the minimum standards for certification on each point the CSWA has already covered in its workbook.
In the meantime, can I ask you to help me? What do you think the minimum standards for these issues should be?
Let's take Jordan at her word. We can present these requests to the CSWA and say, "Here's what we think would make 'certified sustainable' meaningful."
People who care about wine and the Earth: Here's our chance to try to make a difference. Please post your suggestions in the comments section below.