It’s Not Easy Drinking Green PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michelle Lentz   
Sunday, 15 May 2011 07:45

It’s Not Easy Drinking Green
A local wine guru dives in the topic of organic wine to explain what it is, where you can get it and how you can benefit from it. Read on and drink up!

Everything is going green, and that includes wine. So, what is organic wine, and how does it differ from regular, everyday wine? At its most simplistic, organic wine is made from grapes that have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. To get the USDA
National Organic Program (NOP) seal of approval, organic wine can also not have sulfur dioxide (sulfites) added.


Organic wine has three basic categories: Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic. Each has it’s own set of challenges and quirks.


Many farms (and vineyards are indeed farms) are sustainable, even if they aren’t organic. A sustainable vineyard is an ecosystem unto itself, from bugs and birds to grass and trees, everything feeds off each other. There are often compost piles and additional plants that attract insects that benefit the vines. Some farmers even go so far as to plant vegetation that will attract animals away from the grapes, yet still allow the wildlife to explore its natural environment. Weeds and wildflowers are found throughout sustainable vineyards, to stress the vines and force them to produce fewer but more intense grapes. Hawks and bats are brought in to control other pests. On a sustainable vineyard, everything works together, in one place, to create the best grapes possible.


Organic vineyards go one step further. Grape growers avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and use natural methods like crop rotation, tillage, and natural composts. Organic is the next natural step for the sustainable vineyard. If the winemaker wants to certify their wine as organic, then no sulfites (sulfur dioxide) are used in the winemaking process. However, because a lot of wine is aged, there is an argument in the winemaking community over the use of sulfites, which are used in minute quantities and provide stabilization of the wine. Certified organic wine does not use sulfites, so it is generally acknowledged that these wines are for consumption within a few years of bottling. This argument means that a lot of wineries that follow organic farming practices do not apply for certification, due to using sulfites in their wine.


I inquired around Ohio and we don’t have any organic wine producers in our state. Why? Well, we live in a state where we’ve got some tough soil and a lot of bugs. It’s just next to impossible to grow grapes here without using some sort of pesticide.


The next level of green winemaking is biodynamic grape growing. Biodynamics has a lot of myth and skepticism surrounding it. Developed in the 1920s, biodynamics applies everything from both sustainable and organic farming. However, biodynamics views the vineyard as a single organism, encouraging biodiversity, a closed nutrient system, the use of homeopathic teas and a close personal connection to the land. A lot of people will tell you biodynamics is a bunch of new-age nonsense, and admittedly, it does include such rituals as planting a horn of cow manure by the light of the moon. What cannot be argued, however, is that biodynamic vineyards continuously produce excellent wine. Whether it is from the homeopathic rituals or not, I truly believe that if you are going to pay that much attention to every grape and leaf, in your vineyard, you are going to produce excellent wine. Unfortunately, that level of attention often means that biodynamic wines are more expensive than non-biodynamic bottles.


Often the label on the back of a bottle will let you know if sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices were applied in the growing and winemaking processes. Some great organic wineries include Benziger (Sonoma - organic and biodynamic), Parducci Wine Cellars (Mendocino County - carbon neutral, organic), Grgich Hills (Napa - biodynamic), and Badger Mountain (Washington-organic).

Michelle Lentz -

Michelle Lentz is a freelance writer, instructional designer/trainer, social media trainer/consultant and the author of My Wine Education.

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