Soon BC wine lovers will be able to easily identify bottles made with people and the planet in mind.

Starting April 1, 2020, earth-friendly vineyards and wineries will take stock of their sustainability efforts and apply for certification, with BC Certified Sustainable Wine hitting the shelves as early as January 2021.

An offshoot of Sustainable Winegrowing BC—a project of the BC Wine Grape Council— the new certification was developed by a volunteer committee, representing all aspects of the BC wine industry.

“When we started promoting sustainable practices over a decade ago, we knew the wine industry was going to grow,” says committee chair Karen Gillis, vineyard operations manager for Andrew Peller Ltd. “We’ve become a hub for wine industry knowledge, sharing best farming practices that contribute positively to the land, our neighbours and our economy. Certification is the next step.”

Criteria to become a certified vineyard or winery are extremely comprehensive, including high standards for water conservation, ecological diversity, soil health, worker safety, social benefit and more. Wine businesses are audited by a third party, track their progress and must continually improve to stay certified.

“We are holding ourselves accountable to some of the most rigorous sustainability standards in the world,” says volunteer Jane Campardo, consultant to Okanagan Crush Pad “We listened to growers and wineries to make our certification process as meaningful, and easy-to-use for the smallest family business, or the largest multi-holding winery.”

The certification process applies to both vineyards that grow grapes and wineries that make wine. For a wine to showcase the BC Certified Sustainable Wine logo on the bottle, it must be made with at least 50% certified grapes (until 2025, when it increases to 75%,) and the winery must also have passed the auditing process.

Winemaker at Monte Creek Ranch Winery, Galen Barnhardt, is optimistic about the success of the certification. “We know that wine lovers care about our planet, and grape farmers want to keep our vineyard land as alive and vibrant as possible. This certification is a way for consumers to find wineries that share their values.”

Wineries across the province are poised to start the certification process this spring.

“BC wine consumers expect quality— at every level and every price point— and the sustainability certification is one way of maintaining the fresh, high-quality wine we are known for,” says Gillis.