Celebrate Earth Day with a (sustainable) toast
Let’s start with the good stuff—the vino. There are two main types of environmentally-friendly wine: organic and biodynamic. Organic standards differ slightly from country to country, but basically, organic wines come from organic grapes—grapes that have never been near herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or fungicides. To meet the standards for USDA organic certification, vineyards must be free from chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers for at least three years before the vines are planted and the winemaking process must be free from any flavoring agents or sulfites. (If a winemaker adds sulfites, the label will say “made from organic grapes” rather than “organic wine.”)
Biodynamic wines are organic, but biodynamic vintners and farmers go above and beyond typical organic practices. They view the farm/vineyard as a living organism. The goal of a biodynamic farm or vineyard is to be totally self-sufficient so all of the plants and animals (including the bugs), the soil, and even the moon and stars plays an integral role in the health of the farm.
That’s all very interesting, but do organic and biodynamic wines taste good? Fer sure, just ask our friends at the Humble Gourmand.
But to be a true connoisseur of “green” wine, you’ve gotta go beyond the juice. Today, concerns about TCA (a fungus that taints the cork and affects the taste of the wine) have led more and more wineries to replace natural corks with screw tops and synthetic corks. Environmentally-speaking, that’s a problem. Right now, cork is harvested sustainably from the bark of cork oak trees in the Mediterranean. Workers peel the bark off in large strips, then allow the bark to regenerate for 10-12 years before the next harvest. Each tree provides useable bark for up to 200 years. Cork oak trees provide habitat for endangered species like the Iberian lynx, Barbery deer and the Imperial Iberian eagle and cultivation of these trees protects this habitat. As wine companies shift to synthetic corks, the demand for natural cork declines and so does the need to cultivate cork oak trees. Without cultivation, World Wildlife Fund warns, these trees don’t have a chance. And if the cork oaks go, at least three endangered species will loose a chunk of their habitat.
Choosing naturally corked organic or biodynamic wine will get you closer to eco-friendly bacchanalia, but there’s one more way to strive for eco-perfection: take a look at the winery’s carbon footprint. In Napa Valley, wineries can apply for certification as a Napa Green Certified Winery (NGCW). As a certified NGCW, wineries make an effort to reduce their carbon footprints by conserving energy and water, reducing waste and preventing pollution.
Raise a glass of environmentally-friendly vino and propose a toast to the planet. And of course, recycle the bottle and the cork (click here or here to find out more) when you’re done. Happy Earth Day!