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May / June 2010
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The Wines of New York State

Sustainability

GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, GOOD FOR WINE

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The word "sustainable" has been tossed around so much over the past few years that one may well wonder what it means. At Cornell, it can be applied to the replacement of a coal-burning power plant—or the elimination of cafeteria trays and plastic water bottles. In agriculture, it covers a wide range of practices related, in one way or another, to increased respect for the environment.

When applied to viticulture and winemaking, many think of sustainable practices as a sort of "organic-lite" effort by farmers who would like to be organic but are forced by conditions to use chemical sprays for pest control. While there's much more to it than that, many would be hard pressed to say just what "sustainability" is. As Tim Martinson, PhD '91, senior extension associate with the Department of Horticultural Sciences in CALS, says, "Sustainability has been stated as a goal for many businesses, from agriculture and industry to retail giants. Everybody knows they want it—but defining it has been more elusive."

At the 2008 Wineries Unlimited Conference in Santa Rosa, California, Joe Chauncey—whose Seattle-based architecture firm specializes in building sustainable wineries—stated that a sustainable winery should be: (1) ecologically responsive; (2) economically viable; (3) a good neighbor; (4) bioregional (that is, sensitive to the environment and culture of the wider agricultural region); (5) healthy and sensible; and (6) operationally efficient.

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BY DAVE POHL

Dave Pohl, MA '79, is a wine buyer at Northside Wine & Spirits in Ithaca. He came to Cornell in 1976 to work on a PhD in sociology, but he was seduced by the wine business and has been at it ever since. He has been with Northside for more than sixteen years, where he has recommended wines to many happy Ithacans and Cornellians.

 

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