Niagara College Reaps the Harvest of Sustainable Wine Growing with New Certification
Learn all about sustainable winemaking at the Niagara College Teaching Winery.
New releases from the Niagara College (NC) Teaching Winery will be among the first in Ontario to bear a special label earned by a commitment to sustainable wine growing from grape to glass.
New sustainable winegrowing Ontario program
The College is now on a select list of Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario (SWO) Certified Wineries and Vineyards. The new SWO Certified program was unveiled by the Ontario Craft Wineries (OCW) and Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) on March 1, along with a list of wineries and vineyards that have achieved certification. NC is one of 57 sustainable winegrowers of the new SWO Certified program. It is among 34 vineyards that are now SWO Certified Grape Growers and 24 wineries that have achieved the SWO Winery Certification.
An evolution of the former Sustainable Winemaking Ontario Certified program, which launched in 2007, the new SWO Certified program now encompasses both vineyards and wineries, including winemaking facilities. By including both winery and vineyard certification, the new SWO Certified program ensures a complete cycle of sustainable growth.
Demonstrating a commitment to sustainable winemaking
“Sustainable winemaking is extremely important for the long-term viability of the whole wine industry,” said Steve Gill, General Manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “With Niagara College Teaching Winery and vineyards now achieving this result, we can pass on knowledge and, most importantly, the significance of how to be good stewards of the industry.”
“The Grape Growers of Ontario are excited to welcome Niagara College Teaching Winery to the Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario Certified program,” said the GGO’s CEO Debbie Zimmerman. “This certification solidifies their commitment to integrating sustainable practices from soil to shelf, ensuring high quality 100% Ontario grapes are grown consistently year over year.”
How is sustainability evaluated?
SWO Certified Chair Andrea Kaiser noted that winemakers and grape growers who achieve the certification are audited annually on water and waste management, energy efficiencies, social responsibility, commitment to diversity in the workplace, and more, to ensure that the complete grape-to-glass path is sustainable.
Niagara College achieves gold standard
NC Head Winemaker and Instructor Gavin Robertson noted that SWO certification is significant for the NC Teaching Winery, which offers experiential learning opportunities for students in culinary and beverage programs — especially wine programs — as well as its public-facing Wine Visitor and Education Centre, which aims to represent and promote the Ontario wine industry as a whole.
“As both an ambassador for Ontario wine and a learning space, it’s crucial that we operate according to the highest production standards in the industry, and in the 21st century, this includes operating sustainably,” said Robertson. “The SWO certification is the gold standard for environmentally, socially and economically responsible practices in the Ontario wine industry, so we decided to undergo the extensive self-assessment and third-party auditing process to achieve certification.”
“The SWO program is a great demonstration of how one of the many sectors NC students will be entering upon graduation is responding to climate change and integrating sustainability into operations,” said NC Sustainability Program and Outreach Coordinator Amber Schmucker.
“When it boils down to it, programs like SWO Certified allow us to build capacity for sustainability on campus and enhance student learning opportunities in and out of the classroom.”
Learn more about NC’s winery and viticulture technician program