CHILEAN WINE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability is top of mind for us in the wine business these days. The way a producer chooses to use their resources, including their soils, production needs, and people, has become more and more important to us as retailers, sommeliers, and restaurateurs because we have begun to understand how our love of wine has impacts the world around us. As we talk more and more about terroir and aim to share it through the wine glass, we now know that we have to look at how to produce the wines in a way that we can share with generations to come by lessening our impact on the terroir.
It’s been shown time and time again that the greatest way for projects of sustainability to have the greatest impact is to go big, and that’s exactly what Chile has done. The Wines of Chile has tackled sustainability head on by creating the Wines of Chile Sustainability Code back in 2010. How successful are they? Well, now just over a decade in, 79 wineries representing more than 80% of the county’s exports are sustainable and that’s no small feat.

Photo Credit: Wines of Chile

WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN FOR CHILE?

Chile has defined sustainability in four categories: in the vineyard, in the winery, winemaking, social responsibility, and tourism.

 

Vineyard sustainability is measured based on the wineries’ soil management techniques, use of fertilizers and other treatments, as well as water use, among other things. Wineries are evaluated even before the vines go into the ground, and throughout the vineyard’s lifecycle. 

 

In the winery, the producer is evaluated on their production facility’s efficiency in terms of energy, emissions, water, as well as how they reuse, reduce, and recycle their waste.  

 

In what has become an increasingly important point of sustainability, Chilean producers seeking this certification are also seeking sustainability in terms of social responsibility. Producers are evaluated on how they are impacting their communities. This includes everything from health plans for workers, working conditions, community communication, safety plans, overall company culture, relationships throughout the supply chain, and even conditions for organized labor. This is a huge step for sustainability in Chile, let alone the world, and I don’t know of any other programs that are including social standards to such an extent. 

 

Ever evolving, the fourth tenant of Tourism has been added as of 2021. This area of focus is complementary to the other three areas and encompasses the physical areas in which tourist activities take place. I’m looking forward to seeing how this particular area evolves. 

 

These areas of focus collectively create over 346 points of improvement. In addition to being a scale with which to determine eligibility, this list of criteria provides producers with a checklist of sorts. A path to further their aims to reduce their impact on the earth and its resources even after certification. When a producer volunteers to be evaluated, an independent judge evaluates the winery to determine eligibility. Certification lasts for two years once certified.

Photo Credit: Wines of Chile

HOW DO I KNOW IF THE WINE I’M DRINKING IS SUSTAINABLE?

Wines of Chile has created a Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile badge that goes on bottles that qualify. The beauty is, all Chilean producers are eligible for the program, even if they don’t belong to the Wines of Chile promotional body. This incentivizes all producers in this country of diverse winemaking styles, regions, and climates to contribute to Chile’s goal of being the top sustainable wine-producing country in the world.

 

In short – keep an eye out for this seal on bottles that qualify. 

 

DO SUSTAINABLE WINES TASTE DIFFERENT?

Nope. The certification mostly aims to drive sustainable improvement of the winery’s production and management rather than the juice itself. However, I often find that producers that focus on quality wine growing and responsible vineyard management tend to produce healthier grapes, which in turn produces higher quality wine. 

 

WHATCHA GOT?

We have Wines of Chile Certified Sustainable juice from Santa Rita, Montes, Casa Silva, Concha y Toro, Cono Sur, Santa Carolina,  and Veramonte among others. 

This is cool stuff. Chile is on the leading edge of sustainability in the wine world and an example to us all of what can be done for the betterment of our natural resources. I very much look forward to enjoying even more Chilean wine and seeing how the Chile Sustainability Code goes on to influence the rest of the world. 

 

For more on Chilean wine regions, check out our blog or watch our wine class where our Wine Director Brooke Sabel interviews Veramonte’s head winemaker Sofia Araya.