France’s Rhône Valley Vineyards Shine in Sustainability Efforts Leading Up to the 2022 Harvest

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Innovative initiatives are addressing climate change and working to advance sustainability in the region

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Inter Rhône, the organization that represents the Rhône Valley Vineyards AOCs, is pleased to share news about a new sustainability vision, as well as a set of pledges with assessment tools being put into place by the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOCs, as the region is looking toward the upcoming 2022 harvest season.

In view of the challenges it currently faces (climatic, environmental, societal), the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOCs are unveiling a series of four pledges for the future to ensure the sustainability of this dynamic and responsible wine region that is already 2,000 years old.

The four pledges address the macro challenges ahead and are officially codifying practices implemented by numerous winegrowers of the appellation over the past several years. These will ensure that the appellation can communicate on the work that is being done in the vineyards and in the wineries, both to the industry and to all Inter Rhône’s winegrowers, in order to encourage their propagation across the entire region. The vision of new sustainability pledges will include the following thematic pillars:

1. Ensuring the Transparency of Practices
The Côtes du Rhône AOC is governed by a set of specifications established by the decree of November 19, 1937. The appellation was one of the first AOCs created in France, and guaranteeing the quality and provenance of its wines is of great importance to both wineries, domaines and negociants selling around the world.

For the purposes of transparency, the Côtes du Rhône AOC will see the introduction of a guarantee stamp which is intended to ensure the traceability of the wine from the grape to the bottle. It will guarantee the quality of the product, combat counterfeiting and the usurpation of identity and origin. Each stamp will be unique and authenticates each bottle. Featuring technology that is tear-proof and forgery-proof, the new guarantee stamp will provide consumers with the confidence to select Côtes du Rhône wines anywhere new vintages can be purchased.

2. Protecting Biodiversity
Côtes du Rhône vineyards are among the world’s leaders in biodiversity, and it is Inter Rhône’s mission to ensure the natural well-being of the region for future generations. The pledge is based on the widely deployed Côtes du Rhône's “Environmental Landscape Charter”, which was launched in the Côtes du Rhône AOC re­gion in 2014 and describes a set of best practices based on the wine producers’ voluntary commitment to improving the way they work their vineyards by using sustainable growing practices. It is part of a comprehensive approach aimed at further building the natural and built heritage of the appellation.

Another foundational guide for the winegrowers is the Côtes du Rhône AOC Strategic Environmental Action Plan, which enacted agreements with the French Observa­tory of Apidology, Regional League for the Protection of Birds, Gard Ornithological Centre, "Naturoptere" in Sarrians, and numerous wine producers, chambers of agriculture, viticultural experts, Defence and Management organizations to preserve biodiversity.

3. Respecting Terroirs and Preserving Resources
The Côtes du Rhône AOC domaines, wineries and negociants are taking the environmental issues being faced today very seriously, particularly concerning their vine-growing practices and waste reduction efforts.

With the growing number of environmental certifications becoming accessible to many small to medium winegrowers and producers, the Côtes du Rhône AOC is currently working on a guide of environmental recommendations. Currently being drafted, this guide will contain a set of recommendations intended to promote organic growing and to encourage and support changes in growing practices.

To date, at least one-third of the Côtes du Rhône AOC vineyard surface area can boast at least one or more certifications that are organic or environmentally-driven, such as: HVE (High Environmental Value), Terra Vitis and Vignerons Engagés. There is also a strong increase in the proportion of organic vineyards across the Côtes du Rhône AOC: In 2021, 12% of the harvest was certified organic, representing 13% of vineyards (8,600 hectares). The current trend is a strong increase in the number of companies converting to organic viticulture (+65% over 4 years), but also expectation of a sharp increase in the certified vineyard area for the next 2 to 3 years (the area currently ‘in conversion’ represents 50% of the area that is already certified). The significant increase in the number of Côtes du Rhône wineries and domaines converting to organic growing and the high proliferation of HVE certification attest to this long-term commitment of preservation.

4. Passing on a Legacy
Inter Rhône and its Côtes du Rhône AOCs are determined to protect the appellations' vineyards for future generations and to communicate and transmit the richness of their heritage to the wi­dest possible audience. Utilizing the Côtes du Rhône “Environmental Lands­cape Charter” as a form of quality archi­tecture for the preser­vation of the 16 Côtes du Rhône landscape entities, vineyards and its local heritage, the mission pledges to preserve and promote the terroirs, local traditions and know-how of its people, as well as the products derived from them.

The lnstitut Rhodanien, where all of the Rhône Valley’s Research & Development takes place, has developed a new roadmap which also seeks to encourage producers to ensure the sustainability of the Côtes du Rhône vineyards and, more generally, the Rhône Valley vineyards. Its purpose is to build the future of the Rhône AOCs based on technical founda­tions.

According to Philippe Pellaton, the lnstitut Rhodanien's President, “Societal expectations with regards to environmental issues in the vineyards, the necessary emphasis on low-residue wines, the work on the continuous adaptation of our red wines to mar­ket requirements and the clear definition of the profiles of the white and rosé wines are all areas that need to be urgently addressed and in which we need to support our producers."

In addition to the four new sustainability pledges, Inter Rhône is also working on a number of strategic goals in 2022, including starting the process towards becoming certified sustainable (following the guidelines of ISO 26000 international standard). The organization is strongly committed to its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with a labeling process and certification step being currently implemented. With a certified quality policy in place since 2018, Inter Rhône began steps to obtain the CSR label in January, 2021 with the mission to sustain the Rhône Valley AOCs, both environmentally and socially, focused on three concrete, measured actions covering the following pillars: 1) people are at the heart of the governance, 2) increasing the value of and promoting the AOCs in France and for export and 3) an organization that matters.


About Inter Rhône -
Inter Rhône is a dynamic, deeply committed professional association representing all members of the Côtes du Rhône and Rhône Valley AOC wine industry. Founded in 1955, it coordinates the marketing and communications, business and technical activities of the following AOCs: Côtes du Rhône (Regional, Villages and Crus), Clairette de Bellegarde, Clairette de Die, Châtillon en Diois, Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Vivarais, Coteaux de Die, Crémant de Die, Duché d'Uzès, Grignan les Adhémar, Luberon, Ventoux, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise and Rasteau sweet fortified wines, Eaux de Vie de Vin des Côtes du Rhône (or Fine des Côtes du Rhône) and Eaux de Vie de Marc des Côtes du Rhône (or Marc des Côtes du Rhône). Its activity is based on three key principles: fair representation for all professional groupings; parity between producers and négociants; and unanimity for all major decisions. Inter Rhône is both creative and accountable, standing alongside its members, supporting them and helping them in their quest to win greater recognition for Rhône Valley Vineyards wines in France and abroad.

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