Category Archives: Green Wine

Going Green for Earth Day

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.



What it means to be GREEN

Sustainable, organic and biodynamic are the current buzz words coming from wineries across the globe. Wineries and winemakers are making big green strides in the vineyard, as well as the cellar by utilizing these practices. Here’s a bit about all these concepts and what they mean for the wine you’re drinking, particularly what it means when Wine.com calls a wine GREEN.

Sustainable Practices

Sustainable can be defined by three main 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. Most certification organizations cover organic or biodynamic practices only. Because sustainable winegrowing is a broader term, there are less certification bodies for it. A few that do certify sustainable wineries are: LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) and the just-launched Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, who promptly displays the tagline “Sustainability is a movement, not a buzz word,” on its landing page. Both are based in Oregon, the state that seems to be leading the sutainable certification process. We do think that more certification bodies for sustainable winegrowing and winemaking will pop up in the future, but at the moment there are not as many as the organic movement. Some sustainable producers I like: Argyle, Benton Lane, Domaine Drouhin, Willakenzie Estate, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Ponzi. Note that some of these producers may not have the green symbol because, while they practice sustainable agriculture, the wines are not specifically certified. Future vintages that do have certification will be green.

Organic

Organic farming is one step up from Sustainable. Farmers use no synthetic materials, but rely on natural fertilizers and pest control systems; the winery uses minimal filtration and fining materials and natural yeasts. 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. Most wines termed "organic" are made from organically grown grapes. For a wine to be deemed fully "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 minimially, 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. Some US organic producers that are delicious- Frogs Leap, Hagafen Cellars, and Sokol Blosser. Note that Sokol Blosser Evolution is not organic.

Biodynamic

While trendy now, 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.” If you look at some of their practices, such as using a spray made from manure buried in a cow horn for a year, it may seem a little hocus pocus, but all you need to do is taste the wines… the end product is usually stellar, and more and more wineries are starting to move towards these practices. A few producers who are certified biodynamic by Demeter USA: Benziger, Bonny Doon, Grgich Hills and Robert Sinskey. While their wineries are certified, not all of their wines are, since some grapes are sourced. We try to be as accurate as possible when calling a wine green so you may not see green symbols next to all these wines.

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 dont' care about it for marketing purposes and are just doing what has always made the best wines. Some green folks overseas who are certified include: Vietti, Chateau Beaucastel, Chapoutier, Seresin, Muga and Di Majo.

For finding “green” wines at wine.com, look for our green wine icon. This represents those wineries using one of the above practices. Let us know which vineyards you know of who are practicing being green!