‘Green’ is golden in most markets these days, and it is hardly surprising that vineyards and wine labels increasingly carry an array of terms indicating their commitment to various ‘green’ practices. Here’s a run-down on what these terms mean, and how they differ from one another.
Organic wines are typically made from grapes grown in accordance with accepted organic farming practices, and utilizing no or only a limited amount of sulfites during wine-making. Primarily, this means the elimination or reduction of the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. Proponents claim that these chemicals, used in conventional farming, can be absorbed into the grape, affecting the wine and, ultimately, the health of consumers. Wines containing sulfites may only be labelled as ‘made from organic grapes’–wines made without sulfites or any other preservative may be called ‘organic wines’. Certification is obtained through the same agencies that certify other organic products. Critics point out that there are many ways to tweak and manipulate the wine-making process while still maintaining organic certification; some complain that the spoilage loss of sulfite-free wine is too high.
Natural wines are often organic, although they may not pursue organic certification. The natural wine movement is based as much on ideas of tradition and heritage as it is on principles of sustainability and green practices. Natural wine growers hew closely to traditional techniques and practices, using native yeasts (those found on the grape skin) and avoiding adding or tampering with levels of sugar, alcohol, sulfites, etc. These minimalist practices produce hugely variable vintages, but are a good reminder that modern wine making practices are just that—modern—and that wine was made for centuries without the level of tampering that we take for granted. On the other hand, the variability can be a turn off for consumers who like to know what they are uncorking…especially when it comes at a premium price.
The grandfather of modern organic and sustainable wine-making is something called Biodynamic wine-making, based in the anthroposophic principles of the 19th century agricultural theorist Rudolph Steiner. Steiner’s practices range from familiar and almost modern sounding ideas of biodiversity and harmony with the environment, to a range of spiritualist and fantastic sounding theories about energies and spirits. This form of viniculture is almost always organic, and often ascribes to natural wine theory as well, though not necessarily. Proponents claim increased terroir qualities and flavor…critics point out that many of Steiners ideas are wacky and that organic and natural wines produce similar results with less effort.
Low-carbon wine-making takes a big-picture look at the carbon impact of wine-making…and considering that wine produces carbon as it ferments, that impact can be quite large. Wineries committed to lowering carbon impact do so by a combination of reducing carbon usage in farming, bottling, storing and shipping, and by purchasing carbon credits to offset carbon production. Consumers can make their own contribution by choosing environmentally friendly wines to buy, and by buying wines in low-impact containers, like box wines, and by recycling their bottles when enjoying a pricier vintage.
About the Author: Todd Harris is an American chef and a writer of interesting articles about food and wine. He loves to shares his passion for selecting the best wines that best compliment various dishes. He also enjoys travelling to France, cooking sumptuous dishes and drinking Taylors of Clare Valley
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