Sustainability has become the watchword of the wine and grape industry in the United States, and particularly in California. Winegrowers up and down the state are looking at how they do things, finding ways to lessen the environmental impact of their operations, becoming better stewards of the land —and justifiably letting the world know what they’re doing.
All this motion has generated multiple definitions of sustainability, several schools of thought, and a potpourri of checklist systems. There are even some heated debates: What exactly does “sustainable” mean? Who decides what qualifies? Is sustainability a hazy goal down the road, a good vibe, or something that can be measured objectively?
In broad terms, sustainable winegrowing means practices that keep vineyards healthy and productive over the long haul, minimizing negative environmental impacts, along with winery methods that conserve resources and reduce waste and pollution. But at the same time, sustainability for growers and wineries has to mean something else: staying in business, providing continued jobs and income for owners and employees, and in many cases, maintaining the family business as a career option for younger generations.
Until quite recently, “sustainable” had little definition—it was largely an aspiration, something everyone could claim to be committed to, regardless of how they farmed their vineyards. Now several organizations, in winegrowing and other areas of agriculture, are giving the term clear focus and concrete meaning.
All the approaches to sustainability in wine growing have their advantages and disadvantages. Organic vineyard certification is a leading, high-visibility route, and it offers a clear way of avoiding the destructive impact of old-fashioned chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. On the other hand, organic farming can require more tractor passes in the vineyard, consuming fossil fuel and generating emissions, and adding to soil compaction. In achieving sustainability, as in all of farming, nothing is simple. It comes down to countless small decisions.
So many wine producers, not just within California, but in the United States and North America as a whole, are undergoing tremendous efforts in their sustainability initiatives, but perhaps none deserve more praise right now than Jackson Family Wines.
Family owned and crafting wines of distinction since 1982, Jackson Family Wines is a collection of world class wine estates located in iconic wine regions in California, Oregon, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, and South Africa. With a firm belief that the care that goes into making their wines is as important as the quality of the wine itself, founders Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke established their family brand with a vision to build a wine business that would stand the test of time.
In fact, Jackson Family Wines was named the 2020 Green Company of the Year by The Drinks Business (U.K.) as part of the publication’s annual Green Awards that aim to raise awareness of sustainability issues in the global beverage trade industry. They also recognize those companies and people who are leading the way in environmental and social performance.
“All of us at Jackson Family Wines are honoured to receive this prestigious international recognition from the drinks business for our sustainability and climate action initiatives.” – Katie Jackson
Clearly demonstrating its commitment to the environment, Jackson Family Wines has changed and improved its business practices to better its carbon footprint and its own direct impact on the surrounding environment. They’ve promoted this initiative effectively while also clearly demonstrating all the ways in which they have sought to better their green credentials in recent years. This award that they’ve been given is based on their clear focus on activities undertaken over a 12-month period.
“As a multigenerational family wine business, environmental stewardship is at the heart of everything we do across all our global operations – from our farming and winemaking practices to our sales and distribution channels, and beyond,” says Katie Jackson, Second-Generation Proprietor and Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Cultivating the future
Since planting its first vines in 1974, the Jackson family has crafted exceptional wines rooted in environmental stewardship and social responsibility through land conservation, low impact farming, innovative water conservation and energy management, as well as business practices that aim to improve the lives of its workers and communities. The wine company has been measuring its carbon footprint since 2008, and since 2015, it has reduced absolute greenhouse gas emissions across Scopes 1-3 by 17.5 percent.
Following on that progress, the company recently made a public commitment to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and become Climate Positive by 2050, without the purchase of offsets, which is in line with the 1.5C reduction targets that the scientific community agrees are required for the planet to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
As the largest generator of on-site solar energy in the U.S. wine industry, Jackson Family Wines produces 8.6 million kWh of emissions free, renewable electricity across 12 wineries, offsetting an estimated 1,100 homes’ worth of annual electricity use. Looking forward, Jackson Family Wines is developing bold resiliency goals for 2030 and beyond that aim to demonstrate agriculture’s ability to create positive results-based outcomes with the lowest possible impact on climate, with a focus on regenerative farming practices, holistic land management, water stewardship and social impact.
In 2019, Jackson Family Wines co-founded International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with Spain’s Familia Torres to address the urgent need to tackle climate change and drive collective action towards decarbonizing the wine industry. This strong collaboration that now includes 10 winery members from six different countries has provided a critical framework for adhering to a standardized and third-party verified methodology of GHG emissions accounting and prioritizing best practices and mitigation strategies that will be used by wineries across the globe to decarbonize the wine industry.
For more information on Jackson Family Wines and their sustainability goals, visit https://www.jacksonfamilywines.com/stewardship
Try these sustainably produced wines from varying California-based brands across the Jackson Family Wines portfolio:
Freemark Abbey 2016 ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon
A red blend very much made in the classic California style – with 16 percent merlot and splashes of malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc added to provide more backbone. It’s soft, lush and chewy, with flavours of drying plum, black currant, ripe cherry and earth. There’s a touch of sweetness on the mid-palate that further reveals vanilla and sweet tobacco on the finish. It’s a polished wine that will drink well throughout this decade but seems to be made more for the immediate enjoyment. ($79.95)
Murphy-Goode 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a more broadly stroked cabernet in the sense that it seems to be made to appeal to a more commercial consumer. It’s a wine that’s sweeter, fruitier, more extracted. Its jammy red fruit flavours of black cherry, licorice, chocolate and vanilla are a mouthful – like biting through a moist chocolate cake with jam filling. Sounds really sweet, but thankfully it’s balanced just enough to allow the palate to tolerate the forward flavours and the wine’s medium to full body. And it’s not heavily weighed down with oak, which is always a plus. ($24.95)
Cambria 2018 ‘Julia’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir
From a vineyard block named in 1986 after proprietor Julia Jackson, the fog swept vines here have endured since the 1970s and grow on ancient soils with fossilized seashells, shale, limestone and sand. Grapes were 100 percent de-stemmed, stainless steel fermented and aged for nine months in 100 percent French oak (28% new). Notes of vibrant and fresh red fruits dominate the nose, and the palate flavours initially burst with pomegranate, cherry and clove spice. A relatively high alcohol by volume ultimately forces this to sit a bit heavy with some lingering heat on the finish. Priced to compete. ($26.25)
La Crema 2018 ‘Sonoma Coast’ Pinot Noir
A California pinot that checks all the boxes with its typical character of cran-cherry and strawberry fruit, vanilla and spice. It is medium bodied, smooth and not as warm as some previous vintage offerings (alcohol is kept in check here at 13.5%), which is a nice bonus. It will appeal to most pinot lovers and is generally seen as a good starting point for many. ($34.95)
La Crema 2018 ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay
This is a cool climate chardonnay that’s medium-bodied and crisp with notes of apple, pineapple, nutmeg and buttered toast. It’s a general crowd-pleasing wine that can pair with most white meats and seafood dishes. It’s modern in its style and approach, and that should work in its favour for many consumers looking for a straightforward chardonnay to enjoy without having to pay over-reaching prices. ($29.95)
Kendall-Jackson 2018 ‘Vintner’s Reserve’ Chardonnay
Sourced from four distinct cool climate coastal vineyard sites, including Monterey County (52%), Santa Barbara County (31%), Mendocino County (15%) and Sonoma County (2%), Kendall-Jackson’s signature chardonnay boasts tropical flavours of pineapple, mango and cantaloupe that mix with citrus notes that burst on the palate. There’s some toasty oak and slick butter rounding out the finish – which will be widely appealing, no doubt. Fits right into a price-point that’s hard to ignore. ($21.95)