A growing number of wineries are recognizing the benefits of sourcing Lodi Rules certified grapes and printing the Lodi Rules seal on labels. Results from the 2012 Lodi Winery Survey found wineries purchase certified fruit and use the seal for a number of reasons: they believe certification correlates with higher winegrape quality, certification bolsters their brand image of environmental and social responsibility, and certification is a tool to stay at the leading edge in today’s competitive market.
Do wines bearing the Lodi Rules seal have a competitive edge in the marketplace? According to a study funded by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Aliance, 86% of 59 wine market gatekeepers (buyers for restaurants, retailers, and retailers) surveyed said that environmental attributes of wines factor into their purchasing decisions. Furthermore, 81% stated that certification seals on wine labels are helpful for making purchasing decisions.
- Source Lodi Rules certified grapes.
- Vintner wine from certified grapes.
- Apply to use the Lodi Rules seal from the Lodi Winegrape Commission.
- Design a wine label that includes the Lodi Rules seal.
- Submit a proof of the wine label to the TTB for approval through COLAs.
- Train winery sales staff on the benefits of wines made from Lodi Rules certified wines.
Sourcing Lodi Rules grapes
There is no shortage of Lodi Rules certified grapes. As of 2012, over 19,000 acres of Lodi winegrapes were certified in the program. The first step to producing wine labeled with the Lodi Rules seal is sourcing certified grapes. The Lodi Winegrape Commission’s on-line Marketplace makes this task easy. Use the Marketplace’s searchable database to locate growers by certification and by variety. Furthermore, ask growers you currently purchase grapes from. They may already be certified.
When setting prices paid for certified grapes or negotiating contract details, we encourage wineries to take into consideration that growers make a significant financial investment in the form of annual certification fees and the cost of labor necessary for managing records. Some wineries offer growers a price premium of about $50 per ton for certified grapes, but compensation is not limited to price premiums and wineries should experiment with creative compensation systems.
Applying to use the Lodi Rules seal
Wineries intending to use the Lodi Rules seal on their labels must contact the Lodi Winegrape Commission and request an application. Applications can be submitted at any time throughout the year, but must be completed before your graphic artist begins integrating the Lodi Rules seal into label design and before labels are submitted to TTB’s COLAs. Once your application has been processed, you will receive a digital file of the Lodi Rules seal for use in label design. The application can be requested from Matthew Hoffman at the Lodi Winegrape Commission at email@example.com or (209) 367-4726.
Requirements for using the Lodi Rules seal
The Lodi Rules is known as one of the most rigorous sustainable viticulture certification programs in existence. Just as growers are held to high vineyard management standards, wineries using the Lodi Rules seal must meet minimum requirements. At least 85% of the grapes used in a bottle of wine bearing the Lodi Rules seal must be Lodi Rules certified.
Chain of custody
Wineries using the Lodi Rules seal are required to keep certification and chain of custody records by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). TTB regulates all claims made on wine labels, including certifications like the Lodi Rules. Every harvest upon purchasing certified grapes, wineries must acquire a copy of the Protected Harvest certification certificate from the grower. Protected Harvest issues certificates to growers annually upon fulfilling certification requirements. Furthermore, wineries must retain wine production records documenting blending practices to ensure that the final product meets the minimum percentage of certified grapes. This system of record keeping is critical as it ensures the legitimacy and validity of the Lodi Rules seal. When submitting your wine label applications to TTB’s Certificates of Label Approval system (COLAs) we recommend attaching a copy of the Protected Harvest certificate in the “other documents” section of the application. Chain of custody records may be reviewed by TTB in the case of an audit. Wineries typically do not have an issue with record keeping necessary for using the Lodi Rules seal since most wineries are already maintaining similar records.
Resources to promote your winery, brands, and Lodi as certified sustainable
Using the Lodi Rules seal on wine labels is a first step toward capturing the market benefits of sustainably certified winegrapes, but promoting the sustainability of your winery requires integrating the concept of sustainability into several aspects of your business. The Commission offers a number of free resources and services to help wineries promote their Lodi Rules wines. Below you will find downloadable documents which can be printed out for use in tasting rooms, events, sales meetings, and for winery employee training.
- Lodi Rules by the Numbers
- 9 facts about the Lodi Rules
- Quick facts about the Lodi Rules
- Lodi Rules tasting bar top signage
- Wine bottle neckers
Training winery staff, especially tasting room employees and sales representatives, about the Lodi Rules program and sustainable agriculture in general is key. Contact Matthew Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a training session about the Lodi Rules for your winery team. These individuals often represent your brand to the general public and to potential customers, and should therefore be prepared to speak articulately about the Lodi Rules and why wines made from certified grapes are special. Matthew will explain the process growers are required to go through to achieve certification, how wineries can source certified grapes, what wineries must know and do to use the Lodi Rules seal on their labels, and will walk you through the different promotional and educational print materials (listed above).