Practicum Project | 2009

Sustainable Practices in the California Wine Industry: Analyzing the Motivations of Winemakers and Grape Growers

Students: Yousef Anvery, Sachin Goel, Shilpa Hareesh, John Hogan, Antonio Menchaca, Roxana Ramirez

Advisor: Prof. Magali Delmas

This research project seeks to better understand the motivations and barriers for pursuing sustainable practices and certifications in the California wine industry. Despite the existence of many certification programs, the rate of adoption of these programs is low. We collected through an online survey that was distributed to nearly 2,000 contacts within the California wine industry. The survey was designed to explore correlations between business characteristics (size, diversity, ownership, etc.) and the ability to maintain sustainable certifications. The results of our survey showed that the top motivations for pursuing sustainable certifications included environmental sustainability, improvement of grape quality, future business viability, and soil quality. The top barriers to obtaining certifications included little financial benefit, unfamiliarity with sustainable practices, and limited market demand. The results showed that vineyard owners who intend to pass down their business to family members are more likely to adopt sustainable certification. Other hypotheses examined the correlation between certifications and a business size, age, location, and diversity of product offerings. A significant question was drawn from a common theme shared by many comments left at the end of the survey: What if certification is not the answer? A majority of respondents claimed to be Not certified, but use sustainable practices. With the lack of financial benefit, cost, and low consumer demand steering most wineries and vineyards away from certification, it appears that the marketplace is not favoring certified products and therefore not improving a business bottom line. Although certifying wine products is currently the best system in place for giving vineyards and wineries credit for their sustainable practices, it appears to be imperfect. We hope that our findings better inform and even inspire the wineries and vineyards that are considering, beginning, or expanding their implementation of sustainable practices.