Category Archives: Green Wine

The Green Wine Concept

Ever wonder what makes a wine sustainable, organic or biodynamic? Or wonder what makes it all different? Well, we can help decode those green wine concepts for you below.

Sustainable Practices
Sustainable farming has 3 goals: environmental stewardship, economic profitability and social and economic equity. That means that sustainable farmers are doing their best to give back to the environment and to the community, while also furthering their business. Sustainable farming may occasionally use synthetic materials, but only the least harmful and only when absolutely necessary. The goal is a healthy and productive soil that produces healthy vines and will continue to do so for future generations. Only a few certification opportunities exist for sustainable wines, including: LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology), Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine and the California Sustainable Wine-Growing Alliance.  Plenty of wineries and vineyards practice sustainability, but lack actual certification for their operation, so knowing more about the winery helps should you be making purchasing choices based on environmental stewardship.

ChileVineyardOrganic
Organic farming is one step up from Sustainable. Farmers use no synthetic materials and rely on natural fertilizers and pest control systems; the winery often uses minimal filtration and fining materials and natural yeasts. Most wines termed “organic” are made from organically grown grapes, so you will see “organically farmed” or “organically grown grapes” on the label. The key here is excluding the use of any synthetic materials in the vineyard – no fungicides, no pesticides. Instead, crop rotation, cover crops, compost and biological pest control are used for the vines. For a wine to be deemed “organic” by the USDA, it must contain no added sulfites. Sulfites act as a preservative, and while most producers using organically grown grapes use sulfites minimally, any addition of them deems the wine unworthy of the USDA’s “organic” label. But there are lots of other organizations other than the USDA that certify organic wines. Some of these organizations include California Certified Organic Foundation and Oregon Tilth.

Biodynamic
The biodynamic movement started almost a century ago in the 1920’s. In response to growing concern among European farmers regarding crop vitality in an industry increasingly dominated by chemical materials, Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures presenting the farm as a self-sustaining, living organism that needed to follow the earth’s schedule rather than the farmer’s. In 1928, the organization Demeter was formed. Demeter International is still around today and is the only certifying body for Biodynamic wines. Biodynamic practices use herbs, minerals and even manure for sprays and composts. They also plan vine care and harvesting schedules according to the astronomical calendar. The way Demeter so accurately sums it up: “Biodynamic® agriculture is an ecological farming system that views the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, soil maintenance, and the health and well-being of the animals, the farmer, the farm, and the earth: all are integral parts that make up the whole.” How  you feel about the practice does not really matter because the end product is usually stellar.

It’s also important to note that there are many organic and biodynamic wineries in Europe who have been practicing this type of farming for decades or longer, but they have not been certified due to the cost or bureaucracy involved. Some of them just don’t see the point – they don’t plan to use it for marketing purposes and are just doing what has always made the best wines.

For finding “green” wines at wine.com, look for our green wine icon. Green wine

This represents those wineries using one of the above practices. And share with us your favorite “green” vineyards and wineries.

Happy Earth Day!

 

Green Wines for Earth Day! (Infographic)

Sharing our favorite Green Wines infographic again this year. Happy Earth Day!

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What Are Green Wines (Infographic)

There’s a lot of talk about “green” wines these days – from sustainable and organic to biodynamic and natural. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve put together a few pointers to point out the differences in all these earth-friendly wines, as well as what else wineries are doing to help make the wine world a bit more green!

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When the “big” wine guy helps the “little” wine guy

Last Friday our company outing took us to two wineries for tours and tastings, one of which was DeLoach Vineyards. If you've ever visited DeLoach, nestled in the lovely Russian River Valley of Sonoma, you'll know how impressive it is. As well it should be. The winery is owned by Boisset, one of the largest French wine companies – they own and import a number of wines from France and run a few properties in California, too. The family's line up ranges from easy-drinking quaffable wine to collectible Burgundies. They have positioned themselves at the forefront of the eco movement in wines, packaging a few of their wines in PET bottles and converting DeLoach to organic and then biodynamic farming.

DeLoach is pretty cool in that it has an organic farm, with herbs and vegetables galore, as well as chickens laying fresh eggs and sheep roaming about. It's what you'd call self-sustainable.

Walking through the vineyards with Lisa Heisinger (yeah, she knows her stuff), the general manager, we heard all about their biodynamic practices, as well their efforts to recycle (water & grape pumace). In the barrel room they described the artisan practices used in making Pinot Noir – manual punchdowns, natural yeasts, minimal oak, etc. While I love all of these efforts, it's still wine made from a big company. With a lot of money, who can afford to implement these practices. That said, they are a big company that helps the little guy. We were joined by one of the "little" guys that day.

His name is Ulysses Van der Kamp and he owns Van der Kamp vineyard, which is located in Sonoma Mountain and has been around for over 100 years. You immediately want to talk to Ulysses due to his rugged good looks and piercing blue eyes. He's a farmer. He grows grapes. Pinot Noir grapes, to be specific. That's pretty much it. This man lives and breathes Pinot Noir. His passion is contagious and draws you in. He's the kind of guy that does not take vacation because the grapes don't take vacation. He personally visits each vine at least 12 times a year, doing the pruning himself, focusing on the entire life of the vine. I actually asked him if he gave the vines proper names! (he doesn't)

Ulysses (I choose to call him by his first name because I love it) loves DeLoach and DeLoach loves him. They've been working together for a few years and in 2006, DeLoach released the first Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir, part of their Vineyard Designate series. As a grower, dedicated to organic farming and sustainable living, I think Ulysses wants to sell to a winery that feels the same way about the vines. Though he has no say in what happens after DeLoach takes the grapes, he is clearly pleased with the outcome in the bottle – as are we. This wine was fantastic. Bright fruits, lots of dried herbs on the nose. And the palate, while bright with acidity and red fruits, is also coating with its texture, savory character and super lingering finish. A great food Pinot and we loved it with the myriad of foods we had on our plates for lunch.

While it is still a wine run by a big wine family, who makes everything from artisan Pinot Noir to easy-drinking value bottles, they are a big company that thinks like a small one and they represent what you want a "big" company to do – use their money to give back to the earth (organic, recycling, etc) and utilize the artisan growers of the region, like the very lovely Ulysses. Hats off to DeLoach for all that they do up there – making fantastic wine, maintaning a beautful place to visit and most importantly, doing what they can to better the earth they use and the people around it. 

Stay tuned for the Van der Kamp Pinot Noir to show up in our selection. And we hope to head down to Sonoma to talk further with DeLoach and Ulysses.