Talking about “green” wine can have a few meanings.
First, there is green in the vineyard and winery, with buzz words like sustainable, organic and biodynamic. Then you’ve got green in the packaging arena, where you see lots of alternative packaging for both the wine itself and the way it is shipped. Here are some descriptions of GREEN.
In the Vineyard & Winery
Wineries and winemakers are making big green strides in the vineyard, as well as the cellar by utilizing these practices. Here are some words used in the green wine field:
Sustainable can be defined by three main goals – environmental stewardship, economic profitability and social and economic equity. That means that sustainable farmers are doing their best to give back to the environment and to the community, while also furthering their business. Sustainable farming may occasionally use synthetic materials, but only the least harmful and only when absolutely necessary. The goal is a healthy and productive soil that produces healthy vines and will continue to do so for future generations. Because sustainable winegrowing is a broader term than organic, there are less certification bodies for it. Two that currently offer certification: LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) and the just-launched Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, who promptly displays the tagline “Sustainability is a movement, not a buzz word,” on its landing page. Both are based in Oregon, the state that seems to be leading the sustainable certification process.
Organic farming is one step up from Sustainable. Farmers use no synthetic materials and rely on natural fertilizers and pest control systems. The key here is excluding the use of any synthetic materials in the vineyard – no fungicides, no pesticides. Instead, crop rotation, cover crops, compost and biological pest control are used for the vines. In the winery, it means using minimal filtration and fining materials and natural yeasts. Most wines termed "organic" are made from organically grown grapes. For a wine to be deemed "organic" by the USDA, it must contain no added sulfites, and most wines add some sulfites to their wines, not to mention that grapes naturally produce sulfites during fermentation. Sulfites act as a preservative, and while most producers using organically grown grapes use sulfites minimally, it prohibits them from carrying the USDA's "organic" label. Many organizations certify organic wines based on the winery's use of organically grown grapes. Those organizations include California Certified Organic Foundation and Oregon Tilth.
Biodynamic practices use herbs, minerals and even manure for sprays and composts. They plan vine care and harvesting schedules according to the astronomical calendar. Demeter International, the only certifying body for Biodynamic wines, accurately sums it up: “Biodynamic® agriculture is an ecological farming system that views the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, soil maintenance, and the health and well-being of the animals, the farmer, the farm, and the earth: all are integral parts that make up the whole.”
For finding “green” wines at wine.com, look for our green wine icon. This represents those wineries using one of the above practices.
Alternative packaging refers to wineries putting wine in containers that are not made of glass. The newest packaging for wine are the just-launched PET bottles.
About PET bottles: PET stands for Polyethylene terephthalate, a BPA-free lightweight plastic. The newest form of alternative packaging for wine, a PET bottle has 50% less carbon footprint than glass and is much more environment-friendly than glass. It takes less energy to produce, less energy to ship and is easily recyclable. Because plastic is more porous than glass, it’s best to drink PET bottled wine within 12 months after bottling to avoid oxidation.