Due to its growing popularity, the wine industry has exploded over the course of the last century. To keep up with demand many wineries chose to focus on quantity and churning out the most wine in the fastest way possible. In this process, many old-world traditions such as growing grapes without the use of pervasive pesticides and fermentation with natural yeast have been left behind. As millennial consumers are demanding more organic and eco-savvy food options, the wine industry has begun making old things new again with a whole batch of eco-friendly wines to compete in the market.
Eco-friendly wine is still a niche market, however, with only 2% of wine sales in the USA being organic. With their excellent quality, attention to detail, and reduced sulfites, organic and biodynamic brands often dominate top 10 spots on best wineries lists, like the one put out by The Daily Meal.
Understanding the Vocabulary of Eco-Friendly Wines
There are so many buzzwords used to describe food and beverages (including wine!) that it is easy to feel lost. Here is a quick guide to some of the most common sustainable wine labels you might see on bottles:
Certified Organic is the only label managed by the government. The USDA has standards that growers and processors must follow in order to qualify for the USDA Organic label. The EU also has its own organic certification program. Both programs avoid the use of prohibited substances including certain pesticides or GMOs (including GMO yeast). Learn more about organic wine from the USDA or from the EU policies on organic wine.
Biodynamic agriculture is considered to many to be “beyond organic.” The Biodynamic approach to agriculture views the entire farm as a living organism. Rather than using an organic pesticide to deal with a specific pest, biodynamic farming “focuses on creating the conditions for optimal soil, plant, and animal health.” So, biodynamic farmers try to adjust what caused the imbalance rather than treating just the specific problem that popped up. You can also learn more about biodynamic agriculture from The Biodynamic Association.
Sustainable is a word people throw around to often mean a collection of different things. Look for specific sustainable wine seals such as SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice), Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery, Sustainable Wine Growing New Zealand, or LIVE Certified (Low Input Viniculture and Enology). Each of these has its own set of standards to which vineyards and winemakers must adhere in order to be certified.
Eco-Friendly Wines to Try
Try one of these delicious, eco-friendly wines next time you are out to dinner or shopping for wine to serve at home.
Montinore Estate – 2015 “Red Cap” Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, Certified Biodynamic and Organic
Montinore Estate is the largest producer of certified estate wines made from Biodynamic® grapes in the USA. The 2015 Red Cap Pinot Noir features aromas of dried fruit, blackberry, and cedar combined with notes of red and black fruits, bittersweet chocolate, and pie spice on the palate. This highly acclaimed Oregon Pinot Noir is the perfect complement for rich meals, pleasing the most discerning connoisseur and casual sipper alike. It pairs wonderfully with meals where meats like ham, prime rib, or lamb are the star of the show.
Benziger Family Winery – 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – Sonoma County, Organic and Certified Sustainable
The 2014 vintage has an elegant, juicy entry, and berry cobbler, cinnamon, and vanilla flavors. Mocha and wood spices unite, layer by layer, to form a finish that is rich with seamless tannins. Pair it with heavy meat dishes like venison, lamb, or beef.
Ziobaffa – Organic Prosecco DOC – Italy, Organic and Sustainable
Making up this Prosecco DOC you will find 100% organic grapes from vineyards on the hills around Treviso area in Veneto. It has a delicate and fragrant bouquet, with fruity notes of banana and apple and notes of acacia flowers. Fresh and light on the palate, with balanced acidity and body, it has a pleasantly dry aftertaste. Enjoy it with hors-d’oeuvres and delicate first courses.
Earthwise Vineyards – Red Wine Blend – Spain, Made with organically grown grapes
Earthwise has taken the unique step to package their wine in boxes. This isn’t your mom’s boxed wine! Their unique packaging reduces the amount of energy needed to create (and then later recycle) glass wine bottles. Because their packaging is airtight, it also keeps the wine fresh for up to 30 days. The Earthwise red wine blend is a combination of organic Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Garnacha grapes. It has flavors of ripe plum, red raspberries, and savory spices and makes a wonderful base to build a classic sangria with your organic farmer’s market produce haul.
So, which of these eco-friendly wines will you try first? Do you have any others to add to our list? You might also try our list of the best wine and steak pairings in the world.