The BRIT/FIVS International Sustainable Winegrowing Award may be the only one of its kind . Initiated in 2010, the award competition was the brainchild of the nonprofit Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT). For the 2020 competition, BRIT teamed with the Federation Internationale des Vins et Spiritueux (International Federation of Wines and Spirits—FIVS) as co-sponsors. Based in Paris, FIVS brings together an international membership of beverage alcohol producers, distributors, importers, exporters, and trade associations, which opens up the competition’s reach.
According to the BRITS press release, “The award attracts progressive and passionate wine organizations from around the world that are taking a leading role in “ground to glass” sustainable programs.”
Chris Chilton, BRIT’s marketing director says it another way, “The competition focuses on a winery’s real-world application of the three tenets of sustainability: environmental, economic and social …documenting sustainable practices in the categories of air, water, and land in both winegrowing and wine making, social and economic responsibility practices and wine taste.”
Wine companies seeking to enter the competition must answer 20 vineyard and production sustainable-oriented self-assessment questions on the application. Questions address such subjects as grape growing sustainable practices, waste management, and how the winery’s conservation efforts extend to consumers. In addition, two bottles of sustainably-produced wine must be submitted for evaluation. The wines submitted must be available at retail. It costs a company $50 to enter the competition.
Chilton says, “The judging committee varies from year to year, is comprised of specialists in the areas of soil and plants; renewable energy; green building design; water and waste recycling; and of course, food and wine enthusiasts/experts…we have professors of viticulture and enology from Texas A&M University, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) engineers, BRIT botanists, and other knowledgeable environmental people reviewing applications and tasting wine samples.
“Something new from our partnership with FIVS…we will be gaining three additional judges from other countries. Each judge will specialize in one of the three sustainability areas: social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability.”
He says further, “During the wine judging phase the BRIT/FIVS panel seeks “to know what environmental, social, and economic sustainable programs were used to produce a high quality wine, whose market demand provided revenue and profit to the organization for continued operations and improvement and what resources were created or implemented to better the organization’s employees, its local community, and the industry.”
That is the most in-depth wine judging criteria this particular experienced wine judge has ever read!
Wine judging experience of course counts for much in the BRIT/FIVS competition, but Chilton points out that the organization believes in an “everyman approach.” That is to say, whether or not a member of the panel has been trained to evaluate wine, every member gets to participate in the blind wine tasting/judging portion of the competition.
The application process began May 1, 2019—application and wine submission deadline is September 30, 2019. Winners will be announced in November 2019. The application process begins at the BRIT award website.
The Individual awards comprise platinum, gold, silver, and bronze medals, and the competition’s overall winner receives BRIT/FIVS International Sustainable Winegrowing glass sculpture at BRIT’s Vine to Table award presentation and dinner in Fort Worth, January 2020.
The 2019 platinum award winner was Casa Ferreirinha. Previous platinum winners included: Alexander Valley Vineyards (2018), Yealands Family Wines, (2017), Buzet (2016), LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards (2014), Yalumba (2013), Trefethen Family Vineyards (2012), Parducci Wine Cellars (2011), and HALL Wines (2010). (Because of a shift in scheduling, there was no competition in 2015).