B.C. Wine Culture

David Paterson, Tantalus Vineyards. Photo courtesy of Tantalus Vineyards

Unlike wine-producing regions such as Argentina, Chile, Oregon and New Zealand, British Columbia doesn’t have formal sustainable certification—at least not yet. However, under the auspices of the B.C. Wine Grape Council, plans are underway to have a system of verified certification in place, possibly as soon as mid-2020.

An all-volunteer committee of industry professionals from winery, vineyard and hospitality sectors has been hard at work building the Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. program since 2016. Each year brings the reality a little closer.

A wealth of resources is already available online, meaning that any winery wishing to enter the self-assessment program may easily do so. But formal implementation and certification takes time to move through the bureaucracy, says Tantalus Vineyards winemaker David Paterson, a member of the group that includes Andrew Peller Vineyards operations manager Karen Gillis, former Tinhorn Creek CEO Sandra Oldfield (now president of Elysian Projects), and Monte Creek winemaker Galen Barnhardt.

Paterson explains that participants with a number of elements already in place enter the program at year zero and work towards 80 per cent compliance over five years. Interest is widespread, including from growers, who are increasingly focused on quality and sustainability.

“The biggest takeaway is constant improvement,” says Paterson, who notes the B.C. program takes a holistic approach that assesses everything from vineyard water use efficiency and winery waste water management to human resources. Few stones are left unturned—including material supplies. Bottles, for instance, are more sustainable when sourced from Seattle than shipped from China, he notes.

Says committee chair Karen Gillis: “Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. is looking forward to launching the certification program. The positive impacts on environmental, financial and social aspects for individual vineyards and wineries and the industry as a whole will contribute immensely to our long-term sustainability.”

—Tim Pawsey

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