Wine Industry Intent on Going Green

The wine industry is making a concerted effort to adopt environmentally responsible practices but sees a need for better education among both consumers and professionals on many “green” issues, according to surveys of wine industry professionals and executives conducted by Professor Robert Smiley, director of wine studies at the School.

As part of his 10th annual wine executives survey, Smiley gathered the opinions and projections of 28 heads of key wine operations, ranging from growers to vintners to distributors. He reported his findings in September at the annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium in Napa, Calif.

All executives interviewed said their firms were actively engaged in environmentally friendly business activities, such as package redesign, use of biodiesel fuel, wastewater reclamation and developing “green” building plans. They expressed a concern, however, over the lack of clarity in the industry and among consumers over what many environmental terms like “sustainable,” “green,” and “low carbon footprint” actually mean and how industry can genuinely adopt environmentally sensitive practices.

Survey respondents also said that rising prices for gas, electricity, supplies and transportation have significantly raised the cost of doing business across the industry at the same time that wine consumption has been hurt by the general economic downturn. They reported that consumers are dining out less and buying less wine, and noted that wine sales at both casual and high-end restaurants have suffered as a result.

However, many of his respondents are optimistic about the future, according to Smiley. They predicted that the growing consumer perception of wine as an everyday beverage and the rising quality of California wines relative to their prices are the top factors that will impact California wine sales during the next three years.