Sustainability in winemaking is valued by vintners because they know it’s good for both business and the greater health of the world. After all, the delicious grapes they cultivate, blend, and bottle come from the earth itself, and winemakers know the importance of taking care of the natural environment surrounding their businesses.
Below, we’ll review:
- The State of Sustainability In Wine Today
- How Wineries Practice Sustainability
- How Your POS System Can Assist In Winery Sustainability
The State of Sustainability In Wine Today
Climate Change Has Made The Need For Sustainability Obvious
Sustainable viticulture is top of mind for winemakers today, in recognition of their need to preserve and protect the environment that is so key to their business. Managing vine growth, weeds, disease, insects, and soil fertility are all decisions that growers must make. Their choices determine how sustainable any given vineyard is acting.
And as vineyards battle everything from droughts and flooding, to extreme heat and increased chance of wildfires, climate change is clearly rearing its head in the wake of how our world has conducted business for so long, not considering the environmental repercussions. Even still, world leaders are refusing to invest meaningful action and much-needed funding into reversing climate change.
Nonetheless, winemakers are making strides themselves.
But Sustainability In Wine Is A Long Game
While vintners are aware of how important sustainability is, it’s not an overnight fix. Instead, it requires a lot of investment—in resources and in people.
Energy efficient lighting and fuel efficient energy save money in the short-term, but many efforts in respect to the vineyards themselves are expensive, and time and labor intensive, such as hand-weeding versus applying herbicide. And we all know about the struggle to find workers in the current labor shortage. Which brings us to…
Sustainability Goes Beyond Environmental Practices
Of course, this movement is about far more than just the grapes and the soil they grow in. Sustainability in wine is about conserving and protecting the land you work on, as well as the people you employ, the buildings you blend product and greet visitors in, the partners you work with to bottle, label, and ship products, and the outstanding community your winery resides in.
Clearly, there are many stakeholders to do good by! And while federal legislation continues to fight other issues apart from climate change, there are indeed organizations to join and learn from as winemakers and their partners.
There’s Power In Numbers—And In Consumer Demand
These are just a few of the organizations banding together to educate winemakers and help them improve their sustainability efforts in the vineyard and beyond:
- Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR): A coalition of wine brands, producers, distributors, retailers, and environmental organizations on a mission to make the wine sector a sustainability leader.
- New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s Sustainability Program: With a goal to elevate New York as a world class wine region that values sustainable efforts, this Pilot Program has launched a certification process for the state’s growers to complete a self-assessment and third-party audit in order to be recognized with special labeling.
- California Sustainable Winegrowing Program: On the other coast, the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers have started a nonprofit that helps wineries continuously improve their sustainability practices by providing workshops and other resources that enable vintners to evaluate their processes from grapes to glass.
- International Wineries for Climate Action Group: This global working group is full of wineries committed to a science-based approach of reducing carbon emissions across the wine industry.
And while many of the programs like the above offer certifications that wineries can work towards, it’s worth mentioning that not all “green” certifications mark wines and their proprietors as inherently sustainable. USDA Organic, for example, certifies a wine that’s made with organically grown grapes—ones grown with organic additives and no GMO’s or other prohibited ingredients, including sulfur (the best natural preservative for wine.)
Organics and sustainability aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s important to identify what makes them differ.
- Organic: Purity of product using non-synthesized ingredients
- Biodynamic: Holistic agricultural health
- Sustainable: Mitigation and reduction of wastefulness in winemaking
We won’t go into the nitty gritty details of all of the certifications available for wine, but to be able to distinguish between the categories of certification is important because consumers are paying attention. In fact, a 2019 survey by Wine Intelligence shows that consumers are willing to spend up to a $5 premium for certified sustainable wines. Further, 9 in 10 millennials are leading this purchasing behavior, noting that a sustainable claim on a wine bottle increases their intent to purchase.
So, with sustainability posing a monetary advantage for wineries, the time, investment, and human power that goes into earning one of these certifications is clearly worthwhile. Let’s dive into just how wineries act sustainably.
How Wineries Practice Sustainability
We’ve broken down sustainable winery practices into 3 categories, based on the stakeholders in mind. Plus, how you can begin your sustainability efforts as a winery just starting out!
In The Vineyard → Growing & Harvesting
Delicious (and sustainable!) wine starts in the soil. Here’s how sustainable vineyards operate:
Soil health: Cover crops between vine rows are used in California to add nutrients, control growth, add good insects, and prevent erosion. Using compost, like grape pomace, is another way to maintain nutrients in the soil and hold water.
Water conservation: Drip irrigation is a popular method because it allows for efficient and accurate watering with the exact amount each vine needs. Plus, occasionally having a human monitoring vines individually can help reduce water stress and evaluate overall vine health. No more wasted water!
Biodiversity: Protecting the surrounding plants and animals of a vineyard ensures grapes grow in a healthy ecosystem. By preserving a native habitat, you control harmful pests, encourage pollination, and build long-term stability of the surrounding environment.
Energy efficiency: Solar polar, energy-efficient pumps, and limiting tractor passes through a vineyard all help to reduce a winery’s carbon footprint.
In The Winery → Packaging & On-Site Infrastructure
From fermentation to aging to serving up a chilled glass of Riesling to your thirsty customers, there’s a lot that goes on inside the walls of your winery. There are many ways in which you can ensure your packaging and these buildings are operating in a sustainable manner:
Packaging: Recycled cardboard boxes and soy-based ink labels are just some of the sustainable packaging wineries utilize. Hunt Country Vineyards in NY stopped using capsules on their bottles altogether once they realized their only purpose was decorative. Now, they’ve eliminated a single-use plastic from every wine bottle.
Waste reduction: Manage your winery’s waste with a comprehensive recycling program, environmentally-friendly purchasing from suppliers, and winemaking byproduct for compost. You can even think outside the box here, and use recycled natural cork and reuse oak barrels by shaving and re-toasting them.
Green infrastructure: Insulated tanks and other energy efficient equipment, as well as solar and wind power, are growing in popularity for sustainable wineries. LED lighting and automatic control to turn lights on and off are other purposeful infrastructure designs to save energy. Plus, going paperless in the tasting room is another way to be green on-site!
In The Community → Power To Your People
Your employees, partners, and customers are key stakeholders in your winery, and it’s critical that the way in which you operate business benefits them, too.
Employees: Providing education, safety, and a positive work environment are all ways to ensure your staff members are productive and satisfied, which strengthens the wine industry’s community and reputation. Plus, it makes sure that the people serving your guests are equipped to do their jobs efficiently and with a smile on their faces!
Philanthropy: Hosting charity events at your own winery, or even attending events within your community, is a great way to spread positivity and support your neighbors. Raising awareness and money are helpful services your winery can provide, too.
Partners: It’s important that the partners you work with are behaving sustainably, too. After all, you spend the time and money to ensure your wine is sustainably made, and you want to ensure it stays that way for the entire process until it eventually reaches a guest’s lips.
Small Steps Towards Sustainability As A New Winery
You may not have the resources available to launch any large scale sustainability efforts right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the smaller wheels in motion!
Cultivar selection: When choosing cultivars to grow in your vineyard, you must make sure they can thrive in your particular area so as not to waste resources. Consider your vineyard’s climate, surrounding topography, and soil. Because grapes are a self-fruitful crop, pollen from the same cultivar is effective for both fertilization and fruit growth. Being thoughtful in your choices makes for delicious wine and long-term success for your vineyard!
Energy efficiency: Installing a wind turbine isn’t an overnight project. But, switching to energy efficient light bulbs is a low lift, and solar companies offer free estimates regarding panels if you hope to move in that direction!
Education: Educate your staff, guests, and community alike on both sustainability and wine in general! Sharing the knowledge motivates employees to do the same, and sparking interest in both sustainable practices and wine is good for your business.
How Your POS System Can Assist In Winery Sustainability
Your POS system can do so much more than just swipe and process credit cards. This technology can even assist in sustainability efforts at your winery!
In The “Vineyard” → Production-Focused POS Tools
While not used in the actual vineyard, these tools are helpful during the production process of making your wines.
Readily available inventory counts via your POS system can help you save money and save wasted ingredients. The best POS fully integrates your winery with inventory management, so all inventory depletions, regardless of if product is sold on-premise or online, are automatically updated and synced with your system. Third-party integrations like Ekos do the leg work for you, so you can seamlessly track inventory from grape intake to final sale.
The best POS systems sync all of their information with cloud-based technology. This ensures all information from all parts of the business are accessible in one comprehensive dashboard—sales, inventory, and more!
With cloud-based tech comes robust reporting capabilities. And with real-time inventory and sales updates, you can make informed business decisions quickly and forecast appropriately for incoming demand. Accurate forecasting is yet another way that you reduce wasted ingredients!
In The Winery → Service-Focused POS Tools
Your tasting room is the perfect spot to dazzle your guests and educate them about all the sustainable efforts you’re practicing. The following tools ensure utmost satisfaction!
Happy, fulfilled employees make for satisfied customers. And if the tech your staff works with is intuitive and makes their jobs easier, your employees will be happy and fulfilled!
The best POS has an easy-to-use interface and thoughtful features that streamline ordering and closeout. That way, staff members don’t have to think about the POS at all, and can instead educate your guests on what makes your wine unique and sustainable!
Ridding your business of unnecessary paper is an easy way to be environmentally friendly in the tasting room. These tools can help:
- Digital menus: With the quick scan of a QR code, your guests can view a menu online. Now there’s no need for printing (and re-printing) paper menus!
- Mobile, cloud-based devices: The cloud also syncs staff POS devices and tabs. That means as soon as a staff member inputs an order on their device, your bar staff receives it instantly on their own devices. This makes for expedited service and no paper tickets.
In The Community → People-Focused POS Tools
Your guests and the surrounding community are people you aim to impress, and showing your commitment to supporting and uplifting them is sustainable.
What better way to build community than create your own community among loyal fans of your winery? By incentivizing guests with customizable rewards, you engage the people that are most likely to speak highly of your winery, and you also build your brand name! And with the elbow grease you’ve been putting into sustainability, you want guests shouting your winery’s name from the proverbial rooftops.
A seemingly effortless way to raise money and awareness for a cause you care about in your community is with donation at checkout via your POS system. You choose whether guests can round up their tab or donate in whole dollar amounts, and small change makes a big difference over time for your community. Ask 4 Noses, Odd13, and Wild Provisions —they collectively raised $26,990 over the course of a month with Arryved’s donation feature!
POS systems can also help with the philanthropy aspect of your sustainable efforts. The following tools make hosting a charity event free of stress, so you can focus on mingling with guests instead:
- Offline mode: No WiFi on the patio overlooking the vineyard? No problem. Offline mode lets service staff input orders regardless of internet connection, and syncs all tab information across devices once the offline device returns within range.
- Will call reports: If you host a ticketed event, such as an auction, this tool is great for tracking RSVP’d attendees, managing any remaining tickets, and looking back at performance reports from the event.
- Venue tracking: When you’re managing distinctly separate areas of your tasting room, such as a patio and a gift shop, it would behoove you to track them separately. Venue tracking keeps staff organized, determines sales performance of each area separately, and even helps you intelligently staff based on traffic in each space.
So throw a party, raise some money for an organization in need, and cheers to sustainability! Your POS will be in your back pocket ready to help.
Featured image by Kym Ellis on Unsplash