A vineyard is really just a farm. So, it should come as no surprise that grape growers and winemakers have widely embraced eco-friendly agriculture. In fact, many winemakers go beyond the familiar organic certification, crafting tasty wines that are biodynamic, vegan, natural, or zero-carbon – sometimes all in the same bottle. These are some of the green innovations you can look for when seeking wines that are earth-friendly, affordable and downright delicious.
Like other organic foods, organically grown grapes avoid the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. While wines "made with organically grown grapes" permit adding sulfites to 100 parts per million at bottling, "organic wines" have stricter requirements and allow no added sulfites.
•Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2007, California; $18
Fresh and floral with zesty citrus and vanilla flavors.
•Natio Chianti, Cecchi 2007, Italy; $16
Black cherry fruit with lively acidity. It's also vegan.
Based on agricultural philosophies established by Rudolph Steiner in 1924, Biodynamic farming is organic and more, treating the farm as a living organism. While some aspects of this holistic approach may border on the mystical (like spraying vines with ground up cow horn) the core tenets include an emphasis on soil health and maintaining biodiversity by returning animals, both domestic and wild, to the farm system.
•Frey Vineyards, Syrah North Coast 2006, Redwood Valley; $16.50
Chewy black fruit, smoke and firm tannins.
•Ca' del Solo Albariño 2008, Monterey County; $19
Flowers and stonefruits with exhilarating acidity.
Carbon neutral wineries, like Parducci Vineyards, begin with some of the same steps you may take at home, like changing to fluorescent light bulbs and planting neighborhood trees. Wairau River in New Zealand abandoned helicopters used for circulating air in the vineyards and installed more efficient wind machines. After cutting waste as much as possible, these wineries purchase carbon credits to completely offset their remaining footprint.
•Parducci Sustainable Red 2006, Mendocino County; $11
Medium-bodied quaffer, with red berry fruit.
•Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2006, New Zealand; $14
Tropical fruit and zesty citrus with touch of lime.
You probably know to be skeptical of foods labeled "natural," and for good reason: unlike all the above standards, this term has no legal meaning or certifying bodies – with food or wine. However, this loosely-knit wine movement subscribes to adding, and removing, as little as possible during winemaking. Natural wines avoid common winemaking practices like adding yeast, acid, sugar or large amounts of oak, even filtering. This makes them the closest thing to tasting the vineyard.
•Dashe l'Enfant Terrible, Zinfandel 2008, California; $24
Bright, fresh and juicy with hints of spice.
•Domaine de la Pepiere, Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie 2008, France; $15
Lean and crisp with apple and seashell aromas.
With wine, it's only not only what's in the bottle, but the bottle itself that is cause for concern. Formerly a status symbol, thick glass bottles are being replaced by lighter models, often shipped in recycled packaging. For Italian winemaker Mionetto, these changes created cost savings that are passed on to the consumer. Yellow + Blue wine says using 1-liter tetrapaks (like the cardboard cartons used for juice drinks) in place of glass bottles makes their carbon footprint just 54% the size of traditional winemaking.
•Mionetto Sergio Prosecco, Italy; $19.99
Bargain bubbly with pretty peach and melon.
•Yellow+Blue Malbec, Argentina; $12
Fruity and floral with a mouthful of red berries.