Be a Sustainable Wine Ambassador

Online certificate course trains winery sales, marketing and tasting room staff

by Jane Firstenfeld
Wine Institute has issued 211 Sustainable Wine Ambassador certificates since it began offering the program.
San Francisco, Calif.—Winemakers, tasting room managers, wine educators and other sales staff may learn something and earn a credential from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association’s (CWSA) Sustainable Wine Ambassador course.

The new online ambassador course has graduated and certified 211 of 225 participants to date. Wine Institute says the five-part course should take about an hour to complete, and certificate applicants must at least click on all sections before taking the 25-question, multiple-choice test. Classes may be interrupted and resumed at any time, so students can complete them at their leisure.


    The sustainable winegrowing section of the ambassador course explains how vineyard and trellis design can affect vine vigor, reduce pest pressure and control water use. “Another key component of a strong pest-management program is the use of economic thresholds—the level of a pest population above which, if action is not taken, the value of crop damage will exceed the cost of treatment.”

    Sustainable winemaking “is a broad term that covers many different areas of a winery’s operation. It typically includes an overall sustainable business strategy with components such as ecosystem management, air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation, solid waste management, material handling, environmentally preferable purchasing as well as wine quality, human resource management and neighbor/community relations.”

    Wineries that employ environmentally preferable purchasing practices “screen products and services for potential beneficial environmental attributes (such as recycled content and energy efficiency) as well as potential adverse environmental and human health impacts.”

    In order to cultivate a productive, satisfied workforce, safety training is essential. “Mandatory and voluntary training for winery, vineyard, office and tasting room workers often focuses on areas such as safely operating farm and winery equipment, avoiding accidents and injuries, administering first aid and avoiding heat or other stress.”
The diversity of disciplines—sustainable, organic, Biodynamic—remains confusing to many within the industry, not to mention consumers. Others, including servers, tour guides, sales people, sommeliers—even those who’ve followed the progress of sustainability for years—may learn facts to help educate a thirsty public.

Allison Jordan, executive director of CSWA, told Wines & Vines that the course is tailored for sales, marketing and tasting room professionals in the industry, and meant to be “fun for consumers— that segment that’s really interested.”

She hopes it will nurture “greater understanding about sustainability and the specific practices it requires.” CSWA wanted to ease communication about sustainable winegrowing by explaining the more than 200 practices required to attain it.

“We wanted to create an easy and fun way to learn, so that our ambassadors will turn around and help us tell the story.”

Applicants shouldn’t need crib notes to complete the program. They can save or copy course content and revisit it at will—even before attempting the test. The course subjects include California wine, sustainable winegrowing, sustainable viticulture, sustainable winemaking as well as employees and communities.

The history
The Wine Institute (WI) and California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) founded CSWA in 2003 to promote environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the state’s wine community. Within a decade, some 1,800 vineyard and winery organizations representing more than 70% of California wine grape acreage and case production participated in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program.

Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) launched in 2010. The program provides third-party certification verifying vineyards and wineries have adopted and implemented its sustainable practices. Since then, 78 individual wineries and vineyards have been certified: 86,668.75 acres, representing some 15% of the state’s grape acreage, and 137.87 million cases of wine, 57.44% of the total produced in California, according to January 2015 figures.

Winemakers and growers in California and elsewhere have enthusiastically adopted sustainable practices and certifications since the turn of the century. Earlier this year, Sonoma County committed to making its wine industry 100% sustainable by 2019.  

Posted on 05.19.2015 - 10:14:06 PST
A great idea. All TR employees at every responsible estate should be encouraged/required to become certified. I'm starting mine tonight!
Dave the Wine Merchant