Photo via gojeffrey @ Flickr
While the definition of what makes green wine is wildly debatable--different certifications allow different levels of sulfites, which are a naturally occurring part of the fermentation process--one thing we can agree on is that vineyards and wineries using sustainable farming methods and organic grapes produce wines that are just as good as (if not better than) those from conventional wineries. Here, a few regions to watch as green practices become standard across the world.
Image via California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
It's no surprise that California makes this list, since it's fourth in the world in wine production quantities; the state sold 192 million cases of wine just within the United States in 2007, and it accounted for 95% of the U.S.'s $950 million in wine exports that same year. To put that kind of muscle behind eco-initiatives, the non-profit California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance brings together more than 50 regional vineyards and wineries, all of whom work to produce high-quality grapes while being good stewards of the land, flora, and local community. Meanwhile, individual wineries are taking their own steps: Fetzer Vineyards is powered solely by renewable energy; Frog's Leap uses solar power and geothermal cooling; and Frey turns out wines that are biodynamic, organic, and vegan. This month, the state held its first Green Wine Summit, where producers attended sessions on green practices, business plans, and customers.
Photo via gojeffrey @ Flickr
Though Oregon doesn't exactly have a reputation for being a major player in the wine industry, the state's widely varying climate lets winemakers produce warm-climate varietals and cold-climate ones with equal success--and more than a quarter of the acreage used for vineyards is cultivated with sustainable or biodynamic practices. Oregon vineyards can obtain LIVE certification (from Low Impact Viticulture and Enology, Inc.) which proves that they follow guidelines for plant protection, biodiversity, and low-impact farming; Salmon-Safe certification, which means salmon watersheds are protected from erosion and chemical runoff; or approvals from Vinea or Oregon Tilth, both of which support sustainable farming. In the coming months, the Oregon Wine Board plans to develop its own logo and set of standards for wines that are Oregon Certified Sustainable.
Image via Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation
Australia has countless wineries producing blends from organic grapes across the continent, but some of the biggest steps are being taken in the western part of the country. Random Valley Winery--in the Margaret River region, an area that has mild winters and warm (not hot) winters because of its equal distance from two oceans--produces organic, chemical-free wines and is in the process of replacing its insulation with water-filled bottles monitored by thermal imagery. Nearby, Serventy--the region's oldest organic vineyard--is also certified by the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA), who audits the growing process on an annual basis. And at LedaSwan, grapes are harvested by hand and basket-pressed before being stored in oak without man-made refrigeration.
Image via PhillipC @ flickr
If your favorite reds or whites are traditional French offerings, don't worry: many of the country's winemakers are finding ways to satisfy oenophile urges and environmental morals at the same time. For some vineyards, it's all in the packaging: there are the tetrapaks from French Rabbit, which ship using a fraction of the energy of glass bottles; for others, the transporting gets a carbon break by being shipped via boat instead of truck or plane. At Boisset Winery, where pending innovations include aluminum wine bottles, owner Jean Charles Boisset takes into account everything from the glue on the labels to the absence of paper cups by the office water fountain; it's these changes in thought processes that will keep France on the cutting edge of green wine production.