Wine is one of the most ancient and well-loved beverages in all of human history. First produced in Eastern Europe over 8000 years ago, its influence on culture and religion has been far-reaching ever since. Never waning in popularity, wine production has flourished since ancient times and wine is still ubiquitous in many religious ceremonies.
The Grapes of Wrath: Issues with Wine Production
Due to its constant popularity, production of wine over the last century has become more intensive, with overuse of unnatural chemicals and mechanisation that is potentially harmful to the environment. However, in recent years there has been a move towards wine production that is sustainable and kind to the planet.
Definitions of Organic and Sustainable Wines
The term ‘organic’ wine is in common usage in most large supermarkets, and although the term means slightly different things in different countries, it is generally used to refer to a wine that has been produced without the assistance of artificial chemicals in fertilisers and pesticides.
Sustainable winemaking goes beyond conventional ‘organic’ farming, as it implements many more general sustainable farming techniques. These can be anything from monitoring the greenhouse gas emissions of the winery to using bio-fuels in the machinery.
Quite aside from the fact that sustainable winemaking is of benefit to the planet, some wine makers believe that wines produced using sustainable techniques taste better, as no foreign chemicals can make it into the final wine.
This article looks at five wines, and the wineries that produce them, that go above and beyond the call of duty in the search for a superior tipple that doesn’t cost the earth.
2009 Parducci Sustainable Red and White, Parducci Winery, California
|A bottle of 'sustainable red' from Parducci
Image Credit: Parducci Winery
California is an area of the world synonymous with innovation and it is also a leader in the field of sustainable wine production. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Program provides advice and assessments for vineyards in order show how sustainable wine production can be achieved and why it is beneficial.
Among the certified participants in this program is the Parducci Winery.
A well-established, family run winery, Parducci has spearheaded a number of innovative sustainability initiatives in an attempt to become ‘America’s greenest winery’.
Parducci is heavily involved in water conservation and recycling. All of the water used in the wine cellars is reclaimed and once treated using the winery’s artificial wetlands is used to irrigate the crops, so that not a drop is wasted.
In 2008, Parducci became the first carbon-neutral winery when it switched its power supply to 100% wind and solar sources.
Among its other important sustainable initiatives, Parducci uses earth-friendly packaging. This includes making all labels from recycled paper and creating chlorine-free corrugated cardboard.
Among its many wines are the ‘sustainable’ red and white, produced from grapes from local farms to reduce the overall carbon footprint of Parducci.
Stratus Red and Stratus White, Stratus Winery, Ontario
In Ontario we find the Stratus Winery, which has the considerable boast of being the first LEED-certified winery on the North American continent.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system devised to define green buildings. Other notable buildings with LEED certification are Soldier Field in Chicago and the Empire State Building, New York. One of the key reasons the winery was awarded LEED certification was the innovative use of geothermal heating and cooling on the inside and outside of the building.
The production line for the wine is too unique, with gravity-driven processes used in favour of conveyors belts to process the wine.
The signature wines from this winery are the Stratus Red and Stratus White.
Phantom Red, Bogle Vineyards and Winery, California
Another member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, Bogle Vineyards have also obtained recognition from other organisations, with a ‘Sacramento Area Sustainable Business’ certificate and a ‘Certified Green’ certificate.
Bogle has kept a careful eye on greenhouse gas emissions since 2008, and a wide range of energy saving guidelines have been implemented to reduce these emissions by as much as possible. Their goal is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the production of each case by 20% by 2020.
Almost uniquely, the winery offers a bonus to other supplying vineyards that also carry a ‘Certified Green’ certificate, giving incentive to others in the winemaking industry to follow suit.
Bogle produces a wide range of wines from Chardonnays to Merlots, but an interesting one for wine connoisseurs is the Phantom, which is a unique red with strong aromas including pipe tobacco and black pepper.
2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, Rodney Strong Vineyards, California
Once more we head to California, to the Rodney Strong Vineyards of Healdsburg. For over 20 years, the Rodney Strong Vineyards has embarked on sustainable winemaking techniques that have made them an industry leader in this respect.
Now carbon neutral, Rodney Strong Vineyards have received many awards relating to sustainability, including a Green Power Leadership Award from The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Center for Resource Solutions. It was the first vineyard to switch to 100% solar power in 2005, with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 89 700 tons by 2030.
One of the many fine wines produced at Rodney Strong Vineyards is the 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, which won ‘Best of Class’ at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Yealands Estate, New Zealand
New Zealand also produces its fair share of sustainable wines, with Yealands Estate at the forefront of this.
The entire winery is based on a sustainable ethos, from growth to packaging. For example, the vineyards use an abundant natural resource to reduce weeds at the vineyard-sheep! New Zealand’s premier land mammal is employed to graze between the rows of vines to reduce the need for chemical weedkillers or mowing.
Other stand-out initiatives include all of the lighting being controlled via motion sensors to improve efficiency, and rainwater being abundantly harvested.
The efforts of Yealands Estate have been recognised, and they have attained a ‘sustainable winegrowing certification (SWINZ)’.
Among the great wines produced here is the Sauvignon Blanc 2009, which won a gold medal at the New Zealand International Wine Show.