What does CCSW-Certified mean?

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CCSW-Certified is an acronym for Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, a certification program developed by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) that provides verification that a winery or vineyard adopts and implements sustainable winegrowing practices according to the industry's code of best practices and commits to a "process of continuous improvement" in these practices.

CCSW-Certified wineries and vineyards must:

  • Evaluate their operations on a scale of 1 to 4 in 138 vineyard and 103 winery criteria in the California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Workbook annually.
  • Meet 50 vineyard prerequisites and 32 winery prerequisites from the Code criteria to be eligible for the program.
  • Verify the accuracy of their evaluations and practices during a third-party audit.
  • Identify key areas in which they can improve the sustainability of their practices.
  • Create and implement annual action plans and demonstrate improvements over time.

How does a vineyard or winery demonstrate continuous improvement?

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There are several ways to demonstrate improvement. For example:

  • Achievement of action plan objectives, such as reducing energy use by 10%.
  • Achievement of higher category scores for Code workbook criteria.
  • Improvement of performance within a category score, and
  • Implementation of new equipment, technology or practices that maintain or improve performance with reduced environmental or social impact and/or at lower cost.

Improvements can be shown to an auditor during a site visit, noted in the SWP online system by uploading documentation or photos, or through direct communications.

What are the goals of the certification program?

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CSWA's goals for the certification program are to enhance transparency, encourage statewide participation and advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, natural resources conservation and socially equitable business practices.

How do sustainable practices benefit consumers and California?

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Wine consumers can have the satisfaction of knowing they are supporting vineyards and wineries that are socially and environmentally responsible in conserving water, energy and land, protecting air and water quality, and enhancing relations with employees and communities. California's wine industry is also serving as a model for other wine regions and agricultural sectors. Consumers who live in and visit California benefit from supporting businesses that create open space and rural beauty. Enhanced wine quality is another benefit of the industry's adoption of best practices – such as drip irrigation, canopy management, knowledge of wine quality and viticultural improvements – from the Code.

Sustainable winegrowing has been practiced by California vintners and growers for decades, and conserves the state's limited natural resources, enhances environmental quality, and contributes economically and socially to the state. California's booming population has increased competition for land, water, energy and other resources. By adopting sustainable practices, winegrowers are demonstrating their responsible use of these resources and their performance as a good neighbor. California wine will always be tied to the land as a signature industry of the state.

How does sustainable winegrowing certification relate to organic and biodynamic certification?

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Sustainable winegrowing can be viewed as an umbrella concept, or as a larger circle in a series of concentric circles, where there is overlap with organic and biodynamic principles and practices, yet each have characteristics that make them unique. The comprehensive SWP promotes over 200 best practices for the environment and communities from grapes to glass. In addition to earth-friendly methods for vineyards and surrounding ecosystems, sustainability includes energy efficiency, protection of air and water quality, enhanced relations with employees and neighbors, environmentally preferred purchasing, among many others. CCSW-Certified also addresses this broader set of issues.

How does the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program and CCSW-Certified compare with other countries' sustainable winegrowing programs?

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The SWP is one of the most comprehensive and effective industry-wide sustainability programs in the world. It has extremely high adoption rates in terms of vineyard acres and wine production with over 70% of winegrape acreage and wine case production participating in the self-assessment. The SWP is also unique in measuring and publicly reporting performance for our entire industry. CCSW-Certified follows suit. The international wine community has worked cooperatively to develop a standardized set of sustainability principles for the wine community. Each country has developed sustainability programs that meet the objectives of the principles and fit the unique circumstances of their industry. California's program is well suited to the size and diversity of our industry, our values of innovation and continuous improvement, and our goal to be leaders in sustainable practices adoption.

How do I find CCSW-Certified wineries and vineyards?

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CSWA maintains a list of all the CCSW-Certified wineries and vineyards on its website. Individual certified participants may also list their certification status on their websites and marketing materials.