Research Examines Sustainable Wine Production

Napa County is the home to some of the country’s greatest vintners. But a new study by Dr. Asayehgn Desta, PhD, Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Business Economics and Quantitative Research Methods, reveals that the greenest wine-producing county in Northern California is Napa’s northern neighbor Mendocino County.

Dr. Desta’s research, “Conventional versus Environmentally Sensitive Wines: The Status of Wine Production Strategies in California North Coast Counties,” recently was published in the Journal of Business and Public Affairs.

The study is based on a cross-sectional research survey to investigate whether the wineries voluntarily adhere to the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, which provides a tool for vintners and growers to assess their practices and learn how to improve their overall sustainability. The three counties were assessed in terms of their management of the ecosystem, energy efficiency, winery water conservation, materials handling, solid waste reduction, environmentally-preferred purchasing methods, human resources, neighbors and community relations, and controlling and auditing vineyard inputs.

Wineries in all three counties are very much engaged in pursuing more than adequate practical experience in the production of organic wine, Desta said.

However, analysis shows that Mendocino has a competitive edge in water recycling for winery operations, purchasing of environmentally preferred materials, sustainability of human resources training and management, developing environmentally sensitive community outreach programs, and controlling vineyard input.

Napa County has emerged to be more sensitive than Mendocino and Sonoma on the scales that were used to assess energy sensitivity, ecosystems management, and materials handling management.

Sonoma County fell behind in environmental compliance when compared with Mendocino and Napa  Counties—measured by the indicators included in the voluntary self-assessment workbook for the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices.

“My findings showed that of the wineries, those in Mendocino and Napa County have gone beyond the requirements of the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, while those in Sonoma County appear to be lagging behind,” Desta said.

Based on his findings, Desta recommends that, in addition to the voluntary regulations of the wine industry’s Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, the wineries need to be involved in various dialogues or workshops among themselves in order to articulate and design future strategy of environmental performance criteria relevant to sustain human and environmental health.

 “A sound environmental performance strategy not only can lead to an increase in wine quality and the social well-being of the community, but also could help the wineries attain competitive edges in the global wine market.”