Niagara College Reaps the Harvest of Sustainable Wine Growing with New Certification

Niagara College Reaps the Harvest of Sustainable Wine Growing with New Certification

New releases from the Niagara College Teaching Winery will be among the first in Ontario to bear a special label earned by a commitment to sustainable wine growing from grape to glass.

The College is now on a select list of Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario (SWO) Certified Wineries and Vineyards. The new SWO Certified program was unveiled by the Ontario Craft Wineries (OCW) and Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) on March 1, along with a list of wineries and vineyards that have achieved certification.

An evolution of the former Sustainable Winemaking Ontario Certified program, which launched in 2007, the new SWO Certified program now encompasses both vineyards and wineries, including winemaking facilities. By including both winery and vineyard certification, the new SWO Certified program ensures a complete cycle of sustainable growth.

“Sustainable winemaking is extremely important for the long-term viability of the whole wine industry,” said Steve Gill, General Manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “With Niagara College Teaching Winery and vineyards now achieving this result, we can pass on knowledge and, most importantly, the significance of how to be good stewards of the industry.”

“The Grape Growers of Ontario are excited to welcome Niagara College Teaching Winery to the Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario Certified program,” said the GGO’s CEO Debbie Zimmerman. “This certification solidifies their commitment to integrating sustainable practices from soil to shelf, ensuring high quality 100% Ontario grapes are grown consistently year over year.”

SWO Ontario Certified Chair Andrea Kaiser noted that winemakers and grape growers who achieve the certification are audited annually on water and waste management, energy efficiencies, social responsibility, commitment to diversity in the workplace, and more, to ensure that the complete grape-to-glass path is sustainable.

“Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario Certified recognizes the Ontario wineries and vineyards who are committed to ensuring that our environment, local communities and economy remain healthy and viable for generations,” said Kaiser. “We are pleased that Niagara College Teaching Winery has taken the next step in sustainability by becoming Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario Certified.”

Only wines containing grapes grown on a vineyard that is SWO Certified and produced at a winery that is SWO Certified are able to bear the SWO Certified logo on its labels, from the vintage year that they are audited. The NC Teaching Winery will be among Ontario VQA wines that bear the SWO Certified logo beginning with its 2022 vintage. The wines are verified as 100% VQA Ontario by the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority.

NC is one of 57 sustainable winegrowers of the new SWO Certified program. It is among 34 vineyards that are now SWO Certified Grape Growers and 24 wineries that have achieved the SWO Winery Certification.

NC Head Winemaker and Instructor Gavin Robertson noted that SWO certification is significant for the NC Teaching Winery, which offers experiential learning opportunities for students in culinary and beverage programs – especially wine programs –  as well as its public-facing Wine Visitor + Education Centre, which aims to represent and promote the Ontario wine industry as a whole.

“As both an ambassador for Ontario wine and a learning space, it’s crucial that we operate according to the highest production standards in the industry, and in the 21st century, this includes operating sustainably,” said Robertson. “The SWO certification is the gold standard for environmentally, socially and economically responsible practices in the Ontario wine industry, so we decided to undergo the extensive self-assessment and third-party auditing process to achieve certification.”

NC Sustainability Program and Outreach Coordinator Amber Schmucker applauded the new certification program, which demonstrates important measures for the wine industry as well as its impact on student learning at the College.

“The SWO program is a great demonstration of how one of the many sectors NC students will be entering upon graduation is responding to climate change and integrating sustainability into operations,” said Schmucker. “We are thrilled that the NC Teaching Winery has been awarded the SWO certification, as it will allow the College to demonstrate continual improvement for sustainability on campus, while also providing a platform for strengthening internal and external partnerships.

“When it boils down to it, programs like SWO Certified allow us to build capacity for sustainability on campus and enhance student learning opportunities in and out of the classroom.”

SWO Certified is a recognized and independent third-party audit program available to all Ontario vineyards and wineries that produce Ontario VQA wine. It was developed with the three tiers of sustainability at the forefront of the program: environment, economy and community. Grape growers and winemakers are stewards of the land, they operate viable businesses, support jobs, and are a cornerstone of tourism to our local rural communities. Visit for details.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit 


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