Kelowna Daily Courier: Making wine a greener enterprise

From Bogota, Colombia, to Mexico City, to the wineries of the Okanagan, PhD student Camilo Pena has been on a round-the-world research journey.

His ambitions led him to Quails’ Gate winery in West Kelowna, where he has immersed himself in the day-to-day activities of the winery to gather information about sustainable viticulture practices in the Okanagan.

Pena is investigating water-use management, chemical and pesticide reduction, soil and fertilizer management, waste management, energy efficiency and the promotion of biodiversity.

His on-the-ground research in the blazing Okanagan sun includes planting, nurturing and bringing the grape vines to fruition.

The 2011 sustainability report on the British Columbia Sustainable Winegrowing Program showed only seven wineries out of more than 200 and five vineyards out of more than 850 in the Okanagan participated in the first year of the program, said Pena, an interdisciplinary graduate studies PhD student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

“My research is about understanding what local wineries are doing in terms of sustainability, what products they are using, why, and what impact sustainable practices have in motivating consumers to purchase sustainably grown products, such as organic wine,” he said.

“We want to contribute to the development of consumer-research knowledge in the area of sustainability and consumer perceptions, which hasn’t been studied much,” he said. “With this information, we may be able to categorize the motives for people in purchasing a sustainable wine or socially responsible wine.”

Long term, Pena’s research may help determine if there is potential for developing a sustainable wine industry in the Okanagan, similar to fair trade coffee.

“It may also serve as a global model for socially responsible wine production. I would be thrilled if my work could help ensure the viability of the Okanagan wine industry over time, benefiting current and future generations in the valley.”

Pena plans to continue his work throughout the fall at Quails’ Gate, focusing on processing, production and marketing. Over the next year, he intends to expand his research to other Okanagan wineries as well.

Pena is conducting research under the guidance of Annamma Joy, professor of marketing in the faculty of management, whose expertise includes brand management, consumer behaviour, wine consumption and wine marketing.

Joy received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development grant to study taste culture development in the wine industry and the Provost’s grant for wine marketing research in the Okanagan.

Pena’s research is also supported by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit training and research organization. Mitacs provides services to both industry and university faculty with a focus on developing research-based linkages.

Byline: Kelowna Capital News