Sustainability in German Viticulture

Viticulture & winemaking

Sustainability in German Viticulture

Sustainability is becoming more and more important in German viticulture. It involves paying equal consideration to the topics of ecology, economy and social issues 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 CO2-footprint van very efficiently be reduced by using lighter, thin-walled bottles, since these are more resource-efficient to produce and easier to transport. In marketing, care is taken to commission freight companies which work sustainably rather than transporting the wines in 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, so that the wine estate is sustainable in the long term. Social aspects include, for example, fair pay for employees and opportunities for further training 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 viticulture on the other hand also includes aspects of organic wine growing.


Sustainability organisations and initiatives



In 2013, the association FAIR`N GREEN was founded with its headquarters in Bonn. Its task is to develop a holistic system for sustainable viticulture and helps winegrowers to make sustainability goals such as reducing CO2 emissions, a greater biodiversity and social commitment objectively measurable and verifiable and to achieve them in an integrative manner. Consumers recognize the sustainable wines by the seal on the bottle and can opt for sustainable products.

FAIR'N GREEN wineries are subject to the guidelines of the FAIR'N GREEN association, which stipulate that they establish and permanently implement processes in the winery in order to continuously optimize the entire production process, the work in the vineyard and in the cellar as well as the marketing activities. In order to simplify this, all companies receive ongoing advice. As part of the certification, an individual development plan is drawn up for each winery. In addition, further analyzes are carried out, e.g. on the ecological balance or the CO2 footprint. As a minimum requirement, the wine estates have to achieve 50 percent of the points from the specified catalog of criteria in order to be allowed to use the seal. They are then required to improve by three percent annually. The application of and compliance with the guidelines are checked through annual audits.

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. 86 companies were members of FAIR´N GREEN in 2021, including many well-known German wineries, which are thus committed to responsibility for the environment and for future generations and publicly committed to sustainability.



One of the first sustainability seals in the wine industry was developed by the German Institute for Sustainable Development eV (DINE eV) in 2009 in cooperation with the Heilbronn University: FairChoice® is a scientifically based seal for tested sustainable wine production and includes 44 criteria from the areas of ecology, economy and social issues . Among the ecological criteria, the topics of water, biodiversity, plant protection or waste and recycling material were defined. Criteria for controlled, environmentally friendly viticulture and guidelines from organic associations also play a role. The social criteria include social commitment, training and further education for employees and fair dealings with employees, customers and suppliers. The criteria are supported by a value system that is defined in the FairChoice® charter and plays a central role for the companies. Even after certification, the winery is continuously monitored and advised and supported in further sustainable development.

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Together with the Geisenheim University in 2005, the managment system EcoStep-Wein was developed especially for small and medium-sized wine estates and sparkling wine houses. It aims at optimizing business structures and improving competitiveness. To date, around 50 wine-growing companies have been certified by EcoStep-Wein and benefit from an improvement in operational management through key figures, the determination of cost-cutting potential, environmental protection and occupational health and safety. 16 companies have formed the "EcoStep-Wine Working Group" and are continuously working on the further development of the system. Since January 2021, EcoStep-Wein has been recognized as a certificate provider for the funding framework for sustainability in viticulture. 

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Award for Sustainability in Rheinhessen

Strengthening sustainability is a challenge in all areas of the Rheinhessen wine industry, but also in the upstream and downstream production steps for viable companies in the wine industry. This is supported by the competition for the sustainability award, which has been held since 2012. Every year, the award goes to suppliers and providers of products, systems and services that support the winegrowers in their sustainable management. The applications are assessed according to ecological, social and economic aspects of sustainability.


German Sustainability Code

The database of the German Sustainability Code offers a free introduction to the topic. The Ministry of Economics, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture in Rhineland-Palatinate has published the practice-oriented "Industry Guide to the DNK". Based on 23 viticulture-specific criteria, companies can independently check and document the sustainability strategy in the company in an online-dataabae. The Ministry of Economics, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture in Rhineland-Palatinate has published the practice-oriented "Industry Guide to the DNK". Wineries can enter the information and data on the sustainability criteria in an online database. These are checked and released for publication by the DNK. Medium-sized and small winegrowing companies in particular benefit from regular reporting and visibility when developing a sustainability strategy.

Through the Funding Framework for Sustainability in Viticulture, the state of Rhineland-Palatinate also supports small businesses with up to 3,000 euros if they undergo recognized certification for operational sustainability.