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Life cycle greenhouse gas, energy, and water assessment of wine grape production in California



This study assesses life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy use, and freshwater use in wine grape production across common vineyard management scenarios in two representative growing regions (Napa and Lodi) of the US state of California. California hosts 90 % of US grape growing area, and demand for GHG emissions estimates of crops has increased due to consumer interest and policies such as California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.


The study’s scope includes the annual cycle for wine grape production, beginning at raw material extraction for production of vineyard inputs and ending at delivery of wine grapes to the winery gate, and excludes capital infrastructure. Two hundred forty production scenarios were modeled based on data collected from land owners, vineyard managers, and third-party vineyard management companies. Thirty additional in-person interviews with growers throughout Napa and Lodi were also conducted to identify the diversity of farming practices, site characteristics, and yields (among other factors) across 90 vineyards. These vineyards represent a cross-section of the regional variability in soil, climate, and landscape used for wine grape production.

Results and discussion

Energy use and global warming potential (GWP) per metric ton (t) across all 240 production scenarios range between 1669 and 8567 MJ and 87 and 548 kg CO2e. Twelve scenarios were selected for closer inspection to facilitate comparison of the two regions and grower practices. Comparison by region shows energy use, GWP, and water use for typical practices were more than twice as great in Napa (6529 MJ/t, 456 kg CO2e/t, and 265 m3 H2O/t) than Lodi (2759 MJ/t, 203 kg CO2e/t, and 141 m3 H2O/t), but approximately 16 % greater on a per hectare basis. Hand harvest (versus mechanical harvesting) and frost protection processes in Napa contributed to higher values per hectare, and lower yields in Napa account for the even larger difference per metric ton. Hand harvesting and lower yields reflect the higher value of Napa wine grapes.


The findings underscore the regional distinctions in wine grape production, which include different management goals, soils, and climate. When vineyards are managed for lower yields, as they are in Napa, energy, water, and GWP will likely be higher on a per mass basis. Strategies to reduce emissions in these regions cannot rely on increasing yields (a common approach), and alternative strategies are required, for example developing high-value co-products.

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Block Grant, SCBG 09042 funded the technicians and students. The authors would like to thank Allen Hollander, who conducted the PAM analysis used in this study, and all the cooperating growers who generously provided time and data for this study.

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Correspondence to Alissa Kendall.

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Steenwerth, K.L., Strong, E.B., Greenhut, R.F. et al. Life cycle greenhouse gas, energy, and water assessment of wine grape production in California. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20, 1243–1253 (2015).

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