Is Biodynamic and Organic Wine Still Green If It Is Shipped Halfway Around The World?


Is it really eco-friendly?

Wine is tough. We really should drink local in refillable bottles. Since we cannot do that, we should take into account the carbon footprint of its travel. If you are in New York, Pablo calculates that a bottle of Australian Yellow Tail has a lower footprint than a bottle from Napa because it came by ship instead of truck. And we would like to support wineries that are organic, biodynamic, sometimes even secret, and environmentally correct, wherever they are.

Lifford Wine Agency prides itself on being carbon neutral and careful about the environmental qualities of the wines it carries. It is doing an Earth Day tasting, called Green Evolution, of eight "sustainable wineries." But does drinking that in Toronto make it a contradiction in terms?


Berzinger Winery
What are the wineries claiming?

California's Benzinger Family Wineries are third-party certified organic and biodynamic. "Every wine in our portfolio - from our family line to Signaterra to Tribute to de Coelo - carries a third party certification of green farming practices. Whether the vineyard is certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic, it's carefully tended with the most eco-responsible methods available."

France's Domaine Weinbach are organic and biodynamic as well. They explain Biodynamics:

It takes organic viticulture as a beginning: the soils are worked and no synthetic chemicals are used as fertilizers or pesticides. It goes farther then organics in the sense that it considers a vineyard as a living organism. The soil (the earth is viewed as the mother) is not a simple support for the vine but a living environment and a source of energy as much as its outdoor environment is (the sun is the father).

New Zealand's Yealands Estates writes that "Sustainability is at the core of everything we do." They are certified carboNZero (a New Zealand greenhouse gas certification process), are powered by solar and wind, and use sheep instead of tractors and pesticides between rows of vines.


Paul Dolan Vineyards are organic and biodynamic; his epiphany: "After tasting the real difference between organic and conventionally farmed grapes, side by side in a sun-drenched vineyard in 1987, my entire way of thinking about grape growing changed," says Paul Dolan. Since then he has led a revolution, changing the way top wineries think about quality. He even wrote a Green Winegrowing Handbook.

There is only one local (to us) wine in the bunch, from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara on the Lake. They also have a LEED gold certified building by Jack Diamond, and are organic and biodynamic.

In the end, is drinking this stuff in the middle of North America a sustainable practice?
Matt did a post that listed the carbon footprints of moving wine around the USA. Chicago is closest to us, and the carbon footprints of each bottle were as follows:

Claret or Chileans Top Chicago Choice
In Chicago here's how wine's carbon footprint breaks down (it's ship and then truck for all of them, except California which is all truck):
French wines = 1.5 pounds of CO2 equivalent
Chilean wines = 1.6 pounds
Australian wines = 2.1 pounds
Californian wines = 3.2 pounds

In perspective, an average car with a solo driver puts out 1.1 pounds per mile, so if I drove to the nearest liquor store that sells biodynamic wine, I would emit more CO2 than it took to get the wine there.

There are a lot of reasons to support your local vineyard besides just the carbon footprint, but in the end, buying a bottle of wind-powered Yealands is probably greener than the industrial grade local plonk.

What we clearly need is for Southbrook to deliver straight across Lake Ontario by boat. In refillable bottles.

More (with the full wine list) Green Evolution Wine Tasting

Vintages is the upscale end of the government-owned liquor and wine store, who we have complained about for years:
Greenwash Watch: More Fibs From the LCBO
Greenwash Watch: More Greenwashing from the LCBO
Which Is Greener, Wine Bottle or Box? Neither.
More Greenwashing from Ontario's Liquor Store: "Cheerpacks"
Drinking Outside the Box: Juice Boxes for Wine

Tags: Toronto | Wine