Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22!
By: Deborah O'Brien
Welcome April !!! Finally the month that brings Spring and flowers and Easter bunnies and, best of all, "green" wine is here. No, I'm not one of those who celebrates St Patty's Day all year. By green wines, I mean earth-friendly wines, and it isn't just organic anymore. There are many ways a wine can be earth-friendly. And by sipping on these wines you are enjoying a delicious and easy way to support those who do good. Check it out:
Biodynamic – According to many, this is the king daddy of all certifications. This spiritual, ethical and ecological approach to agriculture has been recently embraced by grape growers around the world, including some high-profile ones. For a wine to be labeled as such, it must meet very strict (and often strange) standards of the international certifying body, the Demeter Association. While some may view these practices as mysticism or voodoo, there are many studies that point to healthier vineyards, greater production and cleaner tasting wines.
So if burying yarrow flowers in a stag's bladder that will then be used as compost doesn't win you over, the daily collaboration and attention to detail between vineyard manager and wine maker should.
Bottom line, for a wine to be certified biodynamic it must be organic; however, organic wines are not necessarily biodynamic.
Sustainable – Sustainability encompasses a comprehensive list of practices that are not only environmentally-focused but also include economic and socially responsibility too. Sometimes certified by a third party, or also self-evaluated and reported, sustainable producers adhere to standards in grape growing/farming, wine making as well as management practices such as continuing education, social equity, etc. While sustainable wineries may also be organic or biodynamic, they have flexibility to follow standards that work best for them.
Salmon-Safe – In 1999, this non-profit organization expanded its mission and began certifying wineries that protect water quality and restore wildlife in habitats impacting the Willamette and Walla Walla rivers, their tributaries, the Columbia and Rogue basins and other important salmon watersheds. More than 240 vineyards in Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia are doing their part to protect water quality and biodiversity. Has your favorite Pacific Northwest winery achieved their Salmon-Safe certification? www.salmonsafe.org/livewell/wine-list
Local – Not only does supporting local wineries cut down on energy costs from transportation and often packaging, it also keeps your dollars in the community in which you live. There IS good wine made in Ohio, so why not give some of the more than 160 producers a try. Many of these are within 100 miles of where you live.
Think inside the box - Yep, I am talking about good wine from a box, a keg, a can, tetra pack carton, and even a paper bottle. Consider over half of the wine industry's impact on global warming comes from the production of and the cost to transport the weight of glass bottles.
Sulfites – Poor sulfites, they get blamed for many wine-induced conditions.
While there are people who are indeed allergic or sensitive to sulfites, most of the headaches, stomach aches, sluggishness, flush, and otherwise off-feelings that are blamed on sulfites in wine are actually, well … ahem, the alcohol!
If you can eat salad bar lettuce, salad in a bag, dried fruits such as apricots, jams and jellies, you probably do not have a problem with sulfites. Sulfites occur naturally in all wine. Further, many winemakers also add small amounts of sulfites to wine, especially white wines, to preserve freshness. And just because a wine is labeled "organic" does not mean it is sulfite free.
And of course this brings us to organic – This is the only term regulated by the US government, and these standards differ from those around the world. Basically in the US, organically farmed grapes have had no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, etc. applied, while organic wines take this a step further and no additional sulfites are added prior to bottling.
Finally, to be truly informed, you may have to do a little reading beyond the wine label. Wines from many biodynamic, sustainable, salmon-safe, organic, etc. producers are not even labeled as such. You are Internet savvy, you are reading this blog. If you find a wine/winery you like, do a little research. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that many producers, especially the smaller, family-run, old world ones are quietly doing right by Mother Nature.
With that, I hope you will enjoy a glass of "green" wine this Earth Day and support those who are doing good.