New York vintners seek to add 'green' to white and red Written by Amanda Garris Cornell News Service The Ithaca Journal 10:55 PM, Apr. 24, 2011| On some New York wine lists, along with such traits as fruity and bold, could soon appear "with hints of sustainable pest management and soil conservation." With funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute, some growers hope to establish a certified sustainability program that would put good practices right on the bottle. Led by Peter Martini, vineyard manager of Martini Vineyards Inc., the group is recruiting growers from Long to Lake Erie to earn the new "VineBalance: Sustainably Grown" label for their wines. "A sustainable label won't necessarily bring in any more money for the wine, although it may gain the wine entrance into markets where it is valued," Martini said. "Ultimately, you do it because it is important to you as a grower -- to be profitable and environmentally responsible." Todd Schmit, assistant professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University, has found that consumers are willing to pay only a small premium for sustainable wine and that, ultimately, the taste of the wine trumps the growing methods. Still, the sustainability movement has been gaining momentum, with growing interest from industry and undergraduates. Cornell was the first university to offer a course on sustainably produced wine, when it offered Sustainability and Organic Grape and Wine Production last year. Students in the two-semester class designed and planted an organic vineyard at the Cornell Orchards in the spring, then produced wines from the grapes in the fall. They also learned about water management and wastewater treatment in the winery, as well as sustainable packaging and product distribution. Some sustainable practices can, in fact, increase a grower's costs. For example, removing shoots and leaves near grape clusters by hand can reduce the need for fungicides, but this requires manual labor. Sustainability encompasses environmentally, economically and socially responsible practices. It can take many forms: a cover crop suppressing weeds in the vineyard; a new hybrid grape variety that has natural resistance to disease; or a flow meter on an irrigation line, according to Alice Wise, grape specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County on Long Island.