Winemakers today offer vintages in many shades of "green" that cover the process from the vine to the barrel to the bottle. How earth-friendly do you want your wine to be? Let's explore the options.
"Biodynamic" winegrowing replaces inorganic vineyard treatments with organic ones (such as animal parts), while aligning your imbibing with the cosmos.
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Ross choiceMalbec "Organically Grown"
Yellow & Blue
• Suggested retail and availbility: $11.99 per liter at specialty grocers and wine shops (distributed by Cream Wine Company, Chicago)
Fresh and spicy red, light enough for cocktails, yet rich enough for flavorful dishes such as burgers, Greek chicken, grilled seafood and veggies. America can catch up to canny wine drinkers in Europe, where Tetra Pak packaging has reduced cost and environmental waste for decades. This wine is perfect for parks, pools, back packs and anywhere glass is inadvisable or verboten. On a warm day (they're coming back, right?), drop the 'pak' into ice or a near-by lake for a little chill.
"Certified organic" products forego synthetic pesticides, herbicides and most sulfites from vineyard and winery in favor of traditional techniques (including natural predators and luck), but can result in flavors a little more traditional than modern palates enjoy.
"Organically grown" wine also restricts synthetic treatments from vineyards, but protects fresh flavors with sulfites that may negatively affect asthma sufferers.
"Sustainably farmed" winegrowers make concessions for financial viability that greener (and/or richer) growers avoid, but sustain a healthy environment while staying in business.
Even though organic wine nomenclature is befuddling, wine producers have been organic pioneers long before the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act. After all, in wine the land is the brand, more so than for other agriculture products.
Few consumers care whether their Gala apple came from Michigan or Washington, but when it comes to wine, most will pay a premium for a specific vineyard, valley or region.
In vineyards, valleys and regions around the world, producers saw their land eroded with indiscriminate use of agrochemicals. Rather than leave the same fate to their livelihood, the well-documented, free-spirit of winegrowers banded together in movements, including California's Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Demeter, the international biodynamic certification body, Ecocert, Europe's inspection and certification body for organic farming.
For the wine drinker, the good news is that a healthy choice of well-made, delicious wine, in a range of prices and at every level of green are available in suburban markets.
"Our Daily Red": This blend has been the top-selling "no sulfites added" wine in the known universe, practically since inception in 1998. No worry that the wine will lose freshness with age; the winery sells out long before the year is up. Serve with rich poultry and veggie dishes and lighter meats. (California; $7.99).
Pinot Noir, Pacific Redwood: Certified organic with the silky texture and bright cherry flavors we expect from California Pinot Noir. Serve with rich seafood, lighter poultry, veggies and meats. (California, $12.99).
Sustainable" Red and White, Parducci: From America's first carbon-neutral winery come these delicious wines, well-priced for everyday enjoyment. (California, $10.99).
"Evolution" White, Sokol Blosser: Sustaining wine's "triple bottom line" of people, planet and product with solar and wind energy, "salmon safe" water usage and certified organic vineyards. A touch of honey accents ripe stone fruit and tropical notes in this smooth blend, delicious for cocktails and lighter cuisine. (Oregon, $15.99).
Saumur-Champigny, Roche Neuves A centuries-old Loire Valley vineyard in a superb location, biodynamic practices and winegrower Thierry Germain come together to yield intense aromas of ripe red fruit, satiny texture and mouth-filling flavors of red fruit accented with exotic spice and cocoa. Made with 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes. Serve with flavorful red meats, poultry and veggies, especially rich Middle Eastern dishes such as tagine or shish kebab. (France, $24.99).
"Sauveurs," Binner: Startlingly vibrant, satisfyingly texturous, like a mouthful of fresh-pressed juice from fresh-picked apples on a sunny summer day. Produced by Christian Binner, whose family has owned vines in Alsace since 1770. Biodynamic and unfiltered. Serve with veggie dishes, seafood and poultry, including Alsace specialties onion tart and choucroute. (France, $24.99).
If you want a more in-depth exploration of "green" winegrowing, pick up a copy of "Authentic Wine" by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop (University of California Press, 2011).
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.