Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing

Introduced in 2010, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) is administered by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a leader in promoting sustainable winegrowing practices within the California wine community. 

New Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing website! 

A new website dedicated to the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing program has launched! Explore the new site.

 Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing Website

Certified California Sustainable, from grapes to glass

View or print a two-page overview.   

What are the Benefits of Sustainable Winegrowing?

  • Good for the Environment
    • Sustainable winegrowing preserves natural resources, improves air and water quality, and protects ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
  • Good for the Community
    • Sustainable winegrowing helps growers and vintners be stewards of both natural and human resources, preserving open space and providing scenic landscapes and contributing to their communities economically and culturally. Sustainability also helps provide a favorable environment for employees and neighbors.
  • Good for the Grapes & Wine
    • Sustainable practices require in-depth attention to detail and continuous improvement resulting in high quality California winegrapes and wine.

What is the Value of Certification?

  • Get credit for your sustainability efforts: receive 3rd party verification via annual audits
  • Credibly communicate to consumers, trade and peers: access a variety of logos and claims
  • Drive continuous improvement: organize your goals for improvement and access many free tools and resources to stay on track
  • Save money and reduce risk: follow the program’s 200+ best practices and resources to help increase resource use efficiency and save money
  • Increase brand value and recognition: participate in a program that is closely affiliated with Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), providing broad promotion of the program domestically and internationally
  • Respond to marketplace interest:use a newly released CCSW logo on the wine bottle when requirements are  met
  • Pursue certification for BOTH your vineyard and winery: find efficiencies in certifying both sides of your operation at the same time
  • Invest in assurance: be involved in a program that has been vetted by an internationally-recognized sustainability standards organization and engages a broad group of stakeholders
  • Broad recognition: participate in a widely adopted and recognized California certification program 

Is CCSW Right for You?

Below are some tools and resources to help evaluate if certification is the right choice for your vineyard or winery.

Why choose Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing?

Several of the state’s winegrowing regions and other organizations have sustainable and environmental certification programs, many of which provided the foundation for the statewide California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, and all of which play an important role in the ever-expanding tapestry of the California wine community’s efforts to produce high quality wine. California winegrape growers and vintners have multiple factors to consider when choosing the right certification program, and we encourage growers and vintners to consider all options available before choosing.

CCSW has eight years of recognition in the marketplace and was ranked as the most known sustainability certification program by 457 US wine trade in a recent trade survey (December 2016, Wine Opinions). CSWA expects that recognition to grow, as the program’s growth continues to increase every year. In addition, CCSW is included in the domestic and international communications efforts of CSWA and Wine Institute, which has export marketing programs in 25 countries.The further the distance from California, the more important it becomes for wine regions and AVAs to identify as being under the California umbrella.

While CSWA advocates for the adoption of sustainable practices regardless of vineyards’ and wineries’ decision to pursue certification, CCSW can add credibility to sustainability claims. The new CCSW logo for wine labels indicates that both the winery is certifed and 85% or more of the grapes are from certified vineyards. CSWA accepts Lodi Rules and SIP-Certified in the 85% rule for certified grapes because the programs also cover the 3 E’s of sustainability and include comparable required practices, transparent standards, continuous improvement and annual third-party audits.

Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing Annual Reports

Requirements of Certification

All CCSW vineyards and wineries must meet the following requirements, which are verified during annual third-party audits:

  • Annual Self-Assessment: Completion of an annual self-assessment of 144 vineyard & 105 winery best practices using the comprehensive California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing. Auditors verify that all self-assessment scores accurately reflect on-the-ground practices during the annual audit.
  • Minimum Score Threshold: 85% of the total scores must be Category 2 or higher by Year Two of certification. Practices included in Category 2 and above are considered sustainable practices in the industry.
  • Prerequisite Practices: There are 60 required prerequisite practices for vineyards, and 41 required prerequisite practices for wineries. (While prerequisites specify minimal scores, certified vineyards and wineries often score above these minimum practices.) For the complete list of prerequisite practices and program requirements see: Certification Prerequisites and Requirements.
  • Comply with Restrictions on Crop Protection Materials Crop protection materials on the  CSWA Red List may not be used by Year Two of certification. If materials on the  CSWA Yellow List are used, alternatives must first be tried or considered, and justification and mitigation of risk documented via a competed Use Form (see the Certification Resources page for additional details).
  • Sustainability Performance Metrics for Water, Energy, Nitrogen and GHGs: Vineyards must measure, and record water use and nitrogen applied annually by Year Two of certification. Wineries must measure and record water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) annually by Year Two of certification.
  • Continuous Improvement:  All certified vineyards and wineries must also demonstrate continuous improvement in the adoption of sustainable practices on an annual basis. Written action plans are created and audited to document the implementation of additional sustainable practices every year. 
  • Annual 3rd Party Audit:  Participants must undergo an annual audit and submit an audit report each year that is reviewed by the Certification Review Panel, before the annual certification is awarded. 
  • Chain of Custody Audits: Wine bearing the CCSW logo or claims must be made in a certified winery, using at least 85% or higher grapes from certified vineyards and 100% California grapes. A winery that uses a certification claim or logo on a wine label is required to complete a Chain of Custody audit.

Certification Background

Based on industry and stakeholder feedback, CSWA determined that a voluntary third-party certification option for California vintners and growers was the appropriate next step in the evolution of the Sustainable Winegrowing Program to maintain the California wine industry’s leadership position and commitment to transparency. After three years in development by the Sustainable Winegrowing Joint Committee, comprised of approximately 50 grower and vintner members of Wine Institute and California Association of Winegrape Growers, and led by sustainability certification experts from thinkstep (formerly PE International, Inc. & Five Winds Strategic Consulting) and Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) was launched in January 2010. In 2015, an extensive program update began to enable the use of a logo on the bottle. These updates went into effect January 2017. The 2017 CCSW updates also underwent extensive and thorough review by a broad set of stakeholders including, a 60-day public comment period, 15+ meetings with the Sustainable Winegrowing Joint Committee, development of and thorough consultation with a Pest Management Technical Advisory Group (TAG), and input from other industry experts.

All Certified Participants must meet all prerequisites and other certification requirements to maintain and/or achieve certification. Once all requirements are met and verified during an annual third-party audit, participants then achieve certification.

CCSW Adheres to International Standards Requirements

CSWA is currently a subscriber to the ISEAL Alliance, an internationally recognized organization dedicated to ensuring credible and innovative sustainability standards. (Current ISEAL certification programs include Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, among others.) In addition, in 2017 CSWA contracted with SCS Global Services – a leader in third-party environmental, sustainability and food quality certification, auditing, testing and standards development – to conduct an independent oversight evaluation of CCSW based on a framework that combined ISEAL’s “Codes of Good Practice” requirements and the International Organization (ISO) Guide 59 and ISO 17065 accreditation requirements. At the completion of their thorough evaluation, SCS Global Services issued the following assurance statement:

CCSW has undergone a robust third-party assessment of its standard development process and assurance program by SCS Global Services, and has successfully demonstrated overall compliance with the requirements of an assessment framework based on the requirements of internationally recognized standards and assurance systems, including ISO/IEC Guide 59:1994, ISO/IEC 17065:2012, and ISEAL Credibility Principles.

To learn more about the oversight evaluation of CCSW, please see this backgrounder.