Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Earth Day: Earth Friendly Wines

Given it’s Earth Day, we thought it appropriate to talk about organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines. There is still much confusion about the practices, and what is going to end up in your wine glass, when these terms appear on wine labels and are spouted from the mouths of ambitious wine makers. Hopefully this eliminates some of that confusion and, in the very least, tempts you to try an earth-friendly wine today!


If you are one of those people that have formed a negative impression of 'organic' wine from an unfortunate drinking experience along the way, listen up. We are willing to bet your distaste is due to an organic wine with no added sulfites versus a wine made from organically grown grapes with sulfites added to preserve the wine. Wine with no added sulfites ('Organic Wine') is unstable and can be pretty funky tasting. 'Organically Grown' wines are meticulously cared for and can be out-of-this-world delicious!

The concept is really pretty simple; making wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, and other synthetic chemicals is better for the planet -- and for you, the wine drinker -- because these substances can damage the soil and the grape vine, and can end up in the wine as residues. Blech!


Biodynamic wine producers abide by many of the same principles as wineries making wine from organically grown grapes. They even take it a step further by planning farming and winemaking stages according to cycles of the moon, planet, and stars (now that’s “earthy”!). Biodynamic practices have been around for decades and, although not always 100% organic, no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers are used. The idea is for the vineyard to sustain itself as a miniature eco-system where the plants, animals, and other organisms work together to produce a healthy crop year after year.

When a vineyard is trained to act as a mini eco-system, it eventually becomes more resistant to bad weather and may even produce better wine than less earth-friendly vineyards in poor vintages. Not too shabby, huh?!


Sustainability is more involved and, we find, much more difficult to explain because it is based on both environmental and social concerns. The three main goals are environmental vigor, economic profitability, and social and economic balance. Practices aim to prevent soil depletion and water contamination as well as the decline of family farms. Improving working conditions for farm laborers and social conditions in rural communities are also part of sustainable agriculture. Organic farming practices may be put in place, as well as recycling and other environmentally friendly systems. The bottom line is to enable the vineyards to continue to produce an undiminished product for years to come and for future generations.

The takeaway: Sustainability is good for the earth and for the people who provide us with products that hail from the earth.

Make a toast to Earth Day! Cheers.

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