The Wine Council of Ontario in Canada has produced a thick binder of documents and interactive worksheets to help the province’s wineries and vineyard owners improve their environmental performance.
“Sustainable Winemaking Ontario: An Environmental Charter for the Wine Industry” is the first comprehensive sustainability program of its kind for the wine industry in Canada. The WCO initiated and funded the project with significant input from the Grape Growers of Ontario.
“Winemakers and grape growers realized it’s critical that we do what we can to preserve the land and environment that we rely on for our business,” said WCO Chairman Norm Beal.
“Environmental sustainability amounts to good business practices that end up saving us money,” he added. “So it just makes sense to use these tools.”
Sustainable Winemaking Ontario was developed after more than three years of researching best environmental practices in California, Australia and New Zealand. The program sets benchmarks for the entire Ontario wine industry by providing information and resources that wineries and vineyards of any size can use to assess and improve environmental practices and performance in measurable ways.
“We’ve put together a very comprehensive program that looks at everything from grape growing to winemaking to tourism hospitality,” Beal noted. “It allows for the ability to track changes in behavior and performance over time, including benchmarks that will result in measurable impacts on the physical environment.”
Beal is impressed with the number of winemakers and grape growers who have already embraced the program. “Most everyone realizes that consumers are now interested in the impact that different industries have on the environment, and this is a way of showing that the wine industry is not only environmentally friendly, but working toward constant improvement.”
The WCO has made brochures available at Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores throughout the province to inform the public about the program. The outreach is part of a mission to address questions raised by residents living in wine regions as well as general consumer inquiries regarding environmental issues, including beverage safety.
Sustainable Winemaking Ontario’s other immediate goals include improving energy efficiency, minimizing water use, reducing wastewater, and optimizing the efficient use of all materials employed in the industry. Longer-term objectives include enhancing air and water quality, and paying closer attention to the management of natural resources, including watersheds.
“Our focus is to encourage continuous improvement of environmental practices for all wineries,” Beal said.
The program also encourages wineries to “go beyond the rules” in striving for better environmental performance.
With the WCO representing 78 winery properties in Ontario’s four major wine regions, and the GGO having more than 500 members, the new program is expected to have a positive environmental impact.