Understanding Clean Wine Designations



For those of us who go to great lengthsto  make sure our food is safe, why not do the same for wine? There are hundreds of wineries in the US ditching chemicals in favor of sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Consumers can easily buy organic, biodynamic, and SIP Certified wines in most bottle shops, but seldom know what these certifications really mean. Clear and concise explanations of these clean-wines are hard to come by. I wanted to know what “clean” wine was all about.

I recently traveled to California’s Central Coast and visited the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria wine regions. With Down To Earth Month just around the corner, my timing was right. This eighth offering created by Wine Institute has sustainably-focused wine events throughout April. The launch of Wine Country Table, a book highlighting sustainable California’s wineries and farmers shows encouraging results of treating the land and workers well.

I stopped at several wineries to get to the core of what it means to be sustainable and produce eco-safe wines. I wanted to hear from producers of eco-friendly wines why they bother with non-mainstream wine practices. What follows are three classifications of clean wine I was interested in understanding better.

SIP (Sustainability In Practice) Certified

Sustainable has a new and better designation. SIP certification strives to cover social responsibility, water conservation, clean water, safe pest management, energy efficiency, habitat/wildlife, and fair business practices. All wineries in this program elect to join and be audited. What started in 2008 in Central California is spreading throughout California and now Wisconsin. SIP strives to improve wine growing/production by concentrating on the 3 P’s (people, planet, and prosperity).

Starting out in Santa Barbara where almost 30 wine tasting rooms are scattered throughout the downtown area, I found Riverbench's tasting room. Riverbench has 135 planted-to-vine SIP Certified wines. SIP is a relatively new certification brought about when many wineries were claiming they were using sustainable practices. A clear understanding of what sustainable meant to any given winery was lacking. When SIP was formed, consumers now had a gold standard that is third-party verified. In 2008, a pilot program launched SIP certification for vineyards, and in 2016 SIP for wineries was started.

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