How we produce food has fallen under an increasing level of scrutiny lately, mostly in regards to how production methods affect the environment. The same level of care can be applied to winemaking.
It was once believed that winemaking could not be placed in the same category as industrial farming, since vineyards are often small-scale operations. However, evidence shows that despite their size, vineyards are more damaging than we originally thought.
Even though most modern vineyards appear to be vintage and old-school in their practises, this is more of an aesthetic marketing move than based on actual operational practise. In fact, vineyards rely heavily on modern technology and modern pesticides, in order to make their products and save money in the process.
Since the vineyards are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, they are more resistant to the problems that winemakers once faced. However, it is negatively affecting the environment in many ways, as well as the health of vineyard workers.
The movement to change practises in the wine industry isn’t new. It began in the 80s, amid problems with the soil quality in France. From then on, additional eco-friendly changes began to find their way into the industry, as well.
It’s not enough to set broad goals without a reasonable course of action. Goals should be achievable within a set time, producing measurable results. Such goals have already been set up by both the industry and the governments.
The goal is for 50% of all wineries to be certified as HVE–Haute Valeur Environmentale. The aim is to achieve this by 2025. This would mean as many as 50% of all wineries will reduce their use of chemical sprays by 50% each.
Additional changes are in play, as well, involving moves such as sustainability. The trend is well accepted by winemakers, seen as a return to the nature-friendly strategies winemakers once adhered to. At this point, Sonoma is 100% focused on sustainable winemaking. This is crucial, as it is one of California’s most vital winemaking regions.
Food and wine producers are both taking a more holistic approach to production. The objective is to make winemaking a part of the overall eco-system. This includes setting up special areas for natural habitats that will not be affected by human interference. It also means using organic mulch, and reducing the amount of herbicides and pesticides used.
Surprisingly, it’s no more expensive to produce wine in an eco-friendly way. Overall costs actually reduce with time. What makes the process difficult is the adjustment to change. It takes time for those in the industry to change their practises, and can be initially costly to do so.
The movement to change the nature of wine production is a growing one: a continuation of the processes that are thriving in the world of agriculture. It is a long-term process, best done with collaboration between public institutions and individual winemakers.