Sipping sustainability: how wineries are tackling climate change
As the wine industry worldwide is feeling the challenging effects of of climate change, wineries like Quail's Gate in British Columbia are adopting sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint and protect their crops.
The winery industry is facing many challenges due to climate change, and in response, many winemakers are implementing sustainable practices to decrease their carbon footprint and protect their vineyards. In British Columbia's Okanagan, winemakers like Quail's Gate are establishing sustainable practices such as using less water, lighter packaging, and fewer pesticides. The delicate vines can be easily damaged by wild weather, and increasingly, pervasive wildfire smoke can damage the grapes.
Tony Stewart, the CEO of Quail's Gate, says the vines are still dormant at this time of year, but in a few weeks, buds will begin to form. The company's vineyard was certified as sustainable last year, and it recently joined the Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. Certificate, an industry-led program tailored specifically to B.C. winemakers to help them fight climate change.
"I think B.C.'s very much ahead of the curve in this," Stewart said. "Most of my colleagues in the industry are taking a much greater interest in developing sustainable practices."
The Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. program takes a "holistic approach" to sustainability and environmental stewardship, according to Ruth King, the program manager. It includes social factors such as the treatment of workers and the economic viability of the business. For Quail's Gate, that also meant only including Ocean Wise-certified seafood on the menu at its restaurant.
Lenore Newman, the director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, says B.C.'s wine industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and it makes sense for winemakers to lessen their impact on the environment.
"It's really nice to see some of these certification programs developing because, of course, growing wine can be a fairly intensive industry," Newman said.
Grapes are a particularly sensitive crop, Newman says, and they can require a lot of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. To combat this, winemakers are implementing sustainable practices such as integrated pest management, cover crops, and composting.
Quail's Gate has been implementing sustainable practices for about 15 years, so a lot of the certification process was about documenting the work already being undertaken there. The third-party endorsement can help wine producers stand out in a very competitive market, with consumers increasingly demanding to know what producers are doing to lessen their carbon footprint.
King, who manages the certificate, says the program does provide marketing support, but it also helps businesses analyze their operations to make them more efficient, thereby saving money. Stewart says certification for the vineyard took about a year, and it was an additional six months for the winery to be certified.
Looking to the future, Stewart says the company is looking for additional ways it can continue to improve, such as using electric vehicles or farm equipment.
The strides towards sustainability the winery industry is making by implementing practices that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable should not be taken lightly. By reducing their carbon footprint and protecting their vineyards, winemakers are not only continuing to produce quality wines, but also preserving the environment for future generations while inspiring others to follow suit.