The Wine Blog

How Green Can Wine Get?

April 24, 2014

It isn’t always clear what philosophy you have bought into when you purchase an organic wine. And what about sustainable and biodynamic? What do these terms mean? With all the varied regulations worldwide and different levels of “earth-friendliness,” it can be confusing to know how green your wine is. Light green? Deep, forest green?

The jury is still out on whether earth-friendly practices yield better wine. It is certainly possible to make both good and bad wine with organic grapes. However, the trend towards earth-friendly wines is undeniable. Here is a quick guide to what’s what:

Sustainable wine is the pragmatic approach to being “green enough.” Wine is made in a manner that minimizes its impact on the environment, but maintains the right to use both manmade and natural treatments to control pests, as necessary.

Sonoma recently declared that it aims to be the first “100 percent sustainable US wine region.” By 2019, every vineyard and winery aims to be certified sustainable.

New Zealand takes it a step further and aims to be the first country in the world to become 100% sustainable. Introduced in 1995, Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand is a voluntary, industry-wide initiative developed to provide an environmental ‘best practice’ model for both vineyard and winery.

 Organic winemakers need to jump through quite a few more hoops for certification.  Vineyards are managed without the use of systemic fungicides, insecticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. Regulations for organic certification vary in every country, but essentially any sprays or treatments must comply with that area’s organic guidelines.

There are an estimated 1500-2000 organic wine producers globally and most of them come from the leading organic wine growing nations Italy, France and Spain, but also from countries like Argentina, Chile, Germany, Greece, Austria, Turkey and Hungary.

Biodynamic is intense, man. It is a holistic approach focusing on the balance between the soil, vines, plants, animals and the cosmos and requires an insane attention to detail. The only treatments allowed are the slew of required hand-made compost preparations, such as manure buried in cow horns over the winter, yarrow flowers wrapped in stag’s blatter, and animal skulls filled with oak bark.

The Biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of the Austrian writer Rudolf Steiner in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. This practice has grown significantly in popularity, particularly in Germany, which is home to nearly 50% of the worlds biodynamic vineyards. Biodynamic viticulture is also prevalent in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, and the United States. 

organic wines 2

Want more? Check out these reads:

Biodynamics – The Next Trend 

Ray Isle,  Food and Wine 

If there’s a single trend in how to grow wine grapes, it’s biodynamics—admittedly an odd development for an approach based on a series of lectures given in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Matt Kramer: Can Athiests Make Great Pinot Noir?

Alder, Vinography: a wine blog

Re-cap of a speech by Wine Spectator writer, Matt Kramer, on biodynamic wines at 2013 New Zealand Pinot Noir Conference.

My Argument for Organic and Biodynamic Viticulture 

Blake Gray, The Gray Report

Here, in four words that wine businesses won’t like, is the entirety of my argument for certified biodynamic and organic viticulture: I don’t trust you.

Is Eco Better? 

Lettie Teague, Food and Wine Magazine

Skeptical about the “greenwashing” of the wine industry, F&W’s Lettie Teague explores the fast-growing world of natural wine to find some great bottles.

Many Wines Toast to Mother Earth 

David Falchek, Times Tribune

In this new era of conservation consciousness, most wineries and producers – even those with no formal certification – are working harder to do the right thing by reducing their carbon footprint or energy usage, and treading more lightly on the environment.

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