It’s perhaps no surprise that issues of sustainability are now coming to the wine industry. Customers are more attuned than ever before to where their food is coming from, and that means many wine drinkers are now starting to question the sustainability of many wine growing practices.
According to Sandra Taylor, author of the new book “The Business of Sustainable Wine,” the wine industry is rapidly reaching a point where concerns over sustainability will be front and center. Until now, many wine drinkers have focused solely on the drinkability of the wine. Soon, however, they may also focus on the sustainability of that wine. Just as they want to know the story of the winemaker behind the wine, they will also want to know the cultural and environmental stories of the wines they drink.
“A day of reckoning for the wine industry is fast approaching, judging by the increasing number of complaints about land use, objection to permits for new vineyards, water rights disputes, protests over pesticide spray drift, and legal actions that producers face as a result of the health impacts of chemical use in vineyards,” Taylor warns.
Taylor’s book is an attempt to provide wine producers an overview of best practices for the industry. Chapter 1, for example, defines sustainability for the wine industry in terms of agriculture, consumption and the Triple Bottom Line. Other chapters of the book cover sustainability practices from around the world and provide insights on how to market sustainable wines to customers.
So can we soon expect a day where sustainability practices are clearly outlined on a wine bottle’s label? That day is not yet here, Taylor notes, but when it does arrive, you might start to notice this trend first and foremost on wines that appeal to female wine drinkers and young Millennials. “Consumers, especially Millennials and women, are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and pay greater attention to whether it’s produced in a responsible way,” Taylor points out.
Taylor’s views on sustainability in the wine industry are informed, to a large degree, to her former career as SVP of Corporate Responsibility for Starbucks. Think about a typical experience at a local Starbucks, and that might become a template for the wine industry. You’ll know that grapes (just like coffee beans) are made in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. You’ll know the story of how those grapes were turned into your favorite wine, and you’ll have a choice of what you want to drink based on the sustainability scorecard for a certain producing region.
As Taylor points out, “The Business of Sustainable Wine” was written as more than just a warning for the wine industry. It’s also meant to be a guidebook to best practices, with plenty of insights on how to improve both the environment and the bottom line.
And, as Taylor points out in Chapter 5 of her book, the wine trade – distributors, retailers, and restaurants – now have a duty to educate the crowd. So the next time you pop into a wine retail store or check out a wine menu at a restaurant, it’s an opportunity to see which winemakers are taking the issue of sustainability seriously.