Everybody wants to go green these days. From cars to food to bags, we're all making the effort to make this world a little better for the next generation.
How can we do that with wine? Well, you can go green in wine, too. Plenty of wineries and winemakers are going green in their wines, not only in farming practices but also in winemaking practices and packaging. Here are some green wine terms to know.
Sustainable: Sustainable is about leaving the Earth better than you found it. It's about being responsible, not only with the land, but with the people that work the land, with the community around you and with your business. Practicing sustainable viticulture and winemaking, you're using responsible practices that will leave this place a little better for future generations.
Sustainable certification bodies include: LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) in Oregon, OCSW – Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine and the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance.
Organic: Most organic wine that you see is actually wine made from organic grapes, so in a way it's similar to buying organic produce at the supermarket – organic grapes in wine are grown in the same fashion, with no herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, using natural composts and sprays to keep the vineyard organic. Organic wines certified by the USDA must contain no added sulfites and must have sulfites under a minimal threshold. Since sulfites are a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation, even wines with no added sulfites contain sulfites. Read more about sulfites.
Some organic certification bodies in the US, other than the USDA include California Certified Organic Farmers and Oregon Tilth. While many producers who make wine from organically grown grapes also try to be as organic as possible in the winery, that is not always the case. Research the wineries and wines you see to find out what they are doing to be more green in all aspects of wine.
Biodynamic: Biodynamic farming is in a way like holistic medicine for people, but for the vineyard instead. Biodynamic looks at the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem, so they utilize the animals, plants and soil around them to sustain the vineyard. The vineyard follow's the earth's schedule, so the pruning and harvesting of the vine goes by moon cycles and the astrological calendar. It's organic farming following the earth's rhythms. And there is much to be said about it when you taste the wines! Demeter is the certifying organization for biodynamics and has been around since the the start of this particular type of farming. Some excellent examples of biodynamic wines in California include Benziger, Bonny Doon, DeLoach Vineyards, Grgich Hills and Robert Sinsky.
Natural: Natural is a more recent term used for making wines with pretty much no additives. The grapes from the vineyards are typically organically farmed, with no in-organic chemicals used. The winemaking process is one that uses as little intervention as possible from grape to glass, so native, natural yeasts, neutral oak, no chips, chemicals or additives as the wine ferments. Minimal (if any) filtration and fining, and minimal addition of sulfites (which act as a preservative). Since there is no governing body for natural wines, the definition for such wines can differ. A good blog to read about organic and natural wines is MyDailyWine.com by Amy Atwood. And Alice Feiring has strong opinions about natural wine that are always fun to read.
If you want to find these sorts of wine at Wine.com, we have a handy little "green" icon next to the wines that fit one of these practices. What about green packaging? Well, while it may still make you think of cheap wines, plastic and boxes are making a comeback. PET bottles, made with BPA free plastic are lighter than glass, which saves energy on shipping, and take less energy to produce and recycle. And boxes are no longer for Franzia! More good quality wine is coming in boxes these days, particularly in the Octavin line, which gives you 3 liters (about 4 bottles) of wine in a keg style package, giving you 6 weeks of freshness after you open it and producing much less waste.