I returned from California with an expanded definition of “environmentally friendly” wine. I have since learned that I am not alone in at least beginning to think about how I can factor in “sustainability” or “environmentalism” into my wine purchases. I still want to buy what I think will be a good wine. However, I am now more open to checking out whether a brand somehow incorporates sustainable practices into its operations. Once I figure out what grape I am in the mood for, and how much I can afford for a bottle, the environmental angle seems like a perfectly good next step.
I am usually pretty open to learning about new wines. One of the ways I do so is to flip through my Food and Wine magazine. The May issue had a section on Wine Country Travels—and some of the ads specifically included the word “sustainable”. Arrowood talked about “sustainable viticulture; The next ad (Cambria) used the phrase “farmed sustainably” and Rodney Strong made sure to mention “sustainable business practices”. These claims may or may not be legit (after talking to Arrowood, their claims definitely are), but it was striking to see the claims in wine ads at all.
However, defining what “sustainability” and wine really mean together is a gray area at best. Fortunately, about a month or so ago, I got an email from the Sierra Club about “green wines”. Since I like both wine and the environment, and I am a member of the Sierra Club, I opened the email. I was looking for an answer. Sure enough, they were reviewing wines. The wines were red, white, or rose—the green part was the environmental aspect of either the wine or its producer.
Once the basic issue of taste was addressed, I was surprised as to what qualified as “green”. A couple of the wineries were cited for organic or biodynamic grape growing processes. Some were praised for using renewable energy to power their operations, while another’s production facility has LEED (green building) certification. One or two were complimented on trying to preserve wetlands and the habitats around their facility. One was actually fully organic in its grape growing and its production processes. The comments section had some comments about the relative pay of vineyard workers vs. other agricultural workers (I do not know which was accurate).
Although I was a little confused as to how “green” some wines actually are, the article was interesting because it made me think further about what it meant to actually incorporate sustainability into my wine purchases, For me, the best answer is to learn who is at least raising grapes using organic and/or sustainable methods. Then I would give credit to other aspects like using renewable eneegy, habitat preservation, composting/preserving the soil, etc. Finally, to the extent that I can find about these matters, I would prefer to buy from companies who treat their workers well.
And by the way, be sure the wine tastes good and holds up over time.