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Caine Thompson, Head of Sustainability for O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, has been recognized as one of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Future 40” for his work developing and implementing regenerative wine growing practices that will scale for the global viticulture community. This honor recognizes wine and spirits industry tastemakers and innovators who shape how we drink, bringing the drinks business into the future.
Over the past three years, Thompson has spearheaded O’Neill Vintners & Distillers’ Regenerative Farming Case Study, a viticultural project comparing sustainably certified farming to regenerative farming. The case study has analyzed the health of soil and vines, the quality of grapes, water use, carbon sequestration, and farming costs. The study started with a 40-acre commitment in Paso Robles, but after initial success, Thompson and O’Neill doubled the acreage dedicated to regenerative farming practices.
“Our team at O’Neill is proud of Caine winning this much-deserved award,” said Jeff O’Neill, Founder & CEO of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. “We are leading in this regenerative space by taking action, using our size and the scope of this now 80-acre research project to inspire and demonstrate to the industry that regenerative vineyard farming can happen at scale. Caine’s work has yielded excellent and optimistic results that regenerative farming is a way forward.”
The O’Neill Vintners & Distillers Regenerative Farming Case Study has shown an increase in carbon sequestration in the regenerative organic growing system compared to the sustainably farmed control over the past three years. Thompson notes, “Our regenerative farming results show a significant reduction in carbon in the atmosphere around the vines and more carbon stored in the soil. The farming method also holds more water in the soil, showing soil moisture levels considerably higher than the control, which results in better irrigation efficiency using less water to grow the vine.”
Jacqueline Strum, President and publisher of Wine Enthusiast Media, was pleased to include Thompson in the 2023 Future 40. “Caine’s outstanding achievements as an international leader in regenerative farming on vineyards earned him this well-deserved distinction,” she said.
A New Zealand native who grew up in his family’s gardens and orchards, Thompson saw his father exposed to classic 1970s farming techniques that ultimately took a toll on his father’s health and cost him his life. The loss gave Thompson purpose — finding safe alternatives for pest, disease, and weed control — while also fueling his passion for the earth. Thompson earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Horticulture and Plant Science before completing his MBA and moving to the U.S. where he continues to center his work around regenerative farming, agroforestry, and producing quality wines that are climate resilient at scale.
Thompson believes this form of winegrowing can and will change the world, but only if it is available to all, not only the elite. “Everyone should be able to access and experience the benefits of this growing style and the quality of this fruit, knowing that the wine they consume is the purest and safest expression possible,” he said.
Read the Wine Enthusiast feature, and full list of Future 40 recipients, here: https://www.wineenthusiast.com…