I am delighted to have had the opportunity to have interviewed Beth Vukmanic Lopez, Manager of SIP Certified. I have long been a fan of all sustainability programs because the reach, intent and adoption are in touch with today’s needs for environmentally friendly and responsibly produced wines.
As I was writing up these interview questions in San Francisco a ladybug land on my hand–so fitting–I thought it was such a wonderful thing to happen. Nature reminded me that it is present even in cities.
I have had the ability to sip many SIP Certified bottles of wine. And here is a playlist of my reviews of SIP Certified wines. Sustainability comes in many colours that can hone in on relevant, cutting edge and helpful ways of producing high quality fruit with absolutely sensitivity to planet and people. The raison d’être of SIP Certified and to use a simile is a rail track guide–helping wine grape growers and wine producers to optimize sustainability through this methodology.
Sustainability in wine production is not guess work, a hunch but using a system of principles that have evolved over time that is implemented consistently and constantly. The development of SIP Certified is refined over time by continuous improvement by stewardship of people experienced and educated in viticulture, viniculture, business and other related disciplines.
SIP Certified approach is to touch the following major points of sustainability:
- Social responsibility
- Water conservation
- Clean water
- Safe pest management
- Energy efficiency
- Third party audit
- And constant improvement
I think that sustainability comes from both producers who want this program and consumers are also asking for their wines to be a sustainable as possible.
Here is my interview with Beth Vukmanic Lopez:
JTWG Q1: How long ago was SIP Certified created?
BVL: SIP Certified launched its pilot program in 2008 with 3,700 acres of vines between Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Today, there are 43,600 vineyard acres in California and Michigan, two wineries and more than 36 million bottles of wine that have been SIP Certified. Consumers around the world can now find a wide array of sustainably produced wines to fit their needs, budgets and stylistic preferences.
SIP Certified evolved from the innovative and award winning programs of the Vineyard Team, a local non-profit dedicated to sustainability since 1994. In 1996, the Vineyard Team (developers of SIP Certified) pioneered the innovative and award winning Positive Points System (PPS) – the first self-assessment for vineyards utilizing a whole farm, integrated approach to vineyard management. Since its inception, over 1,000 evaluations representing 60,000 acres were collected. The PPS helped educate and guide hundreds of growers towards adopting practices that protect both human and natural resources.
JTWG Q2: How has SIP Certified evolved in terms of your sustainability practices and requirements?
BVL: Absolutely! There is no finish line for sustainability so we are always growing (pun intended). The certification Standards are a “living document” – as science, technology, and research developments become available the Standards evolve. A Technical Advisory Committee reviews one to three Standards chapters annually and oversees external peer review of entire program every five years.
JTWG Q3: How many states and countries can SIP Certified wines be found?
BVL: While most of our certified vineyards and wineries are in California, we are proud to have certified Waterfire Vineyards in Michigan. Additionally, we have vineyard and winery operators throughout the United States who use SIP Certified as a free self-assessment tool to improve their practices.
JTWG Q4: How rigorous is it for a producer to become SIP Certified?
BVL: From its inception, SIP Certified was designed to be a distinguishing program. The practices required to achieve certification are rigorous, ensuring that vineyards and wineries meet a strict threshold for environmental and human resource protection. The program relies on independent verification and inspection, is free from conflict of interest, and is 100% transparent with its standards and rules.
JTWG Q5: I saw on your website that grape producers can also become SIP Certified – so a wine producer can buy but they cannot be automatically be SIP Certified – right?
BVL: Members can certify their vineyard or winery or both by implementing the rules covered in the Standards. Wines made with estate or purchased fruit can carry the SIP Certified seal on their label when they are made with at least 85% SIP Certified fruit as verified by an inspection. Participants with both certified vineyards and wineries can use the SIP Certified Vineyard & Winery seal.
JTWG Q6: How does your organization think about expansion to more producers?
BVL: SIP Certified is fortunate to have grown year over year since 2008. In addition to new members, many participants have added more acres or their winery to the program overtime. We also think that providing the program as a free self-assessment is a great asset to producers everywhere.
JTWG Q7: I think it is safe to say that not all sustainability programs are the same – right? How does SIP Certified differ?
BVL: At SIP Certified, we are setting the bar for sustainability. Our certification addresses wine production at every stage, from labor to agriculture – from energy conservation to water quality. It is an additional way for consumers to know they’re buying sustainable wines that give back to the land and community on every level.
JTWG Q8: What are the benchmarks of success for SIP Certified for the organization and those that become SIP Certified?
BVL: We take the idea that sustainability is ever evolving to heart so our organization continuously looks for ways to improve: providing education on sustainability to members, improving our Standards and database, developing new educational content (check out the Sustainable Winegrowing Podcast), working with retailers to promote sustainable wines, and so much more. Our members also have that drive to improve season over season because they know the actions they take have impacts beyond the fenceline.
JTWG Q9: Are wine consumers getting what they want in terms of sustainability?
BVL: We know that 83% of Americans consider sustainability when buying food. Now we have a great opportunity to help educate consumers about what sustainable winegrowing is. SIP Certified helps sustainably minded shoppers find wines made with care for the people and planet.
JTWG Q10: What is SIP Certified doing next?
BVL: Earlier this year we set up the first ever sustainable wine sections in two grocery stores here on the Central Coast of California. Now, we are working with more retailers to set up their own sustainable sections.
We also just launched an incredible new website filled with personal stories about our winegrowers, ways to find wines made at SIP Certified properties, wine reviews and more.
More information from SIP Certified can be found here: SIP Certified website
Stay tuned to more of my interviews and, of course, more reviews and specific subjects on food, wine, travel, lifestyle and more.
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
All SIPCertified images are courtesy of the organization.
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