Sustainability in German Viticulture

Viticulture & winemaking

Sustainability in German Viticulture

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in German viticulture. It involves paying equal consideration to the topics of ecology, economy and social responsibility in the wine industry. In the last few years, a number of different programmes for sustainable wine production have emerged worldwide.

How do sustainability-oriented wineries operate?

Wine estates which have adopted sustainable winegrowing practices endeavour to constantly optimize their overall operations, work in the vineyard, cellar management and marketing/sales as part of a holistic approach to sustainability. Every stage in the production process, from pruning to dispatch, has to be regularly scrutinized and improved. In the vineyard, this means using crop protection products and fertilizers only when necessary and in consideration of all environmental protection criteria. The motto here is “as much as necessary, as little as possible”. In bottled wine production, thin-walled bottles and screwcaps are employed as these are cheaper to produce and lighter to transport. In marketing, care is taken to commission freight companies which work sustainably rather than transporting the wines in their own trucks. Attempts are made in all areas to use resources as efficiently as possible, for example by converting to renewable-power. This has an influence not only on ecological but also on economical aspects, as costs can be reduced. Social aspects also come into play, for example, through fair wages for employees and training programmes, or through the preservation of the cultural landscape.

What is the difference between organic and sustainable farming?

The difference between organic farming and sustainable wine production is that in the certification of organic wine production, only environmentally-relevant aspects are included in the cultivation and cellar guidelines - social and economic aspects are not considered. Sustainable wine production on the other hand, also includes aspects of organic wine growing and making.


Sustainability initiatives and management systems



In the last two decades, a number of different programmes for sustainable wine production have emerged worldwide. In 2013, the association FAIR`N GREEN was founded with its headquarters in Bonn. It aims to develop a holistic system for sustainable viticulture. FAIR´N GREEN wine estates are subject to the guidelines of the FAIR´N GREEN association, which stipulate that they verifiably establish and permanently carry out processes in the winery to steadily optimize the entire production process. As a member of FAIR´N GREEN, wine estates profit from a network for the exchange of knowledge, best practice solutions and information on the evaluation of individual estates. Regardless of the way each business operates, the FAIR´N GREEN sustainability system is of interest for both conventional and organic wineries. To date, approx. 50 enterprises are certified according to the FAIR´N GREEN guidelines, among them many leading German estates. As such, they acknowledge their responsibility for the environment and for future generations and publicly commit themselves to sustainability. FAIR´N GREEN was developed in close contact with winemakers and scientists. They have a criteria catalogue and an external certification, and thus aim for a high degree of transparency.


German Institute for Sustainable Development e.V.

The Institute for Sustainable Development e.V. (DINE e.V.) was founded in 2009 as an independent organization at Heilbronn University. Its tasks are to conduct and promote research and development in sustainable management in the key areas of tourism, logistics and wine production.

Sustainable management is measured and evaluated by economic, ecologic and social parameters. The German Institute for Sustainable Development e.V. sees itself as a platform for the dialogue between all parties involved in the economic process of sustainable development in tourism, education, logistics and wine business. (German only)



Award for Sustainability in Rheinhessen

In 2012, Rheinhessenwein e.V. took up the topic of sustainability in the wine sector. It kicked off its activities with a sustainability congress for the wine industry. At the same time, the Heidelberg Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) was commissioned to conduct a sustainability report for the wine industry in Rheinhessen. It identified the ecological and social key indicators for sustainable development, which now have to be implemented by all parties. In the meantime, this has led to a close cooperation with the Centre of Competence for the Wine Market and Wine Marketing at the Rheinhessen-Nahe-Hunsrück Service Centre (DLR) in Oppenheim, with the Departments of Viticulture and Vinification at the DLR, with the Rheinhessen Winegrowers´ Association, as well as with various universities and state agencies. Since 2012, a Sustainability Award competition has been organised for the suppliers and service providers in the wine business.