Sustainable Wines

“It’s not easy being green.”

-Kermit the Frog

Sorry Kermit. The times have changed. There are numerous shades of green in the wine world nowadays, and consumers don’t have to sacrifice quality to find them. Green generally isn’t usually something you look for in a wine. For wine geeks, ‘green’ refers to under-ripe fruit and lip-stinging acid.

But the global movement towards all things earth-friendly and planet-preserving also extends to wine. In fact, from ground to grape to glass, some wine producers have gone back to their roots, literally, in creating a sustainable product. Think about it – winemaking has been around for thousands of years and is a very natural and organic process. In today’s mass-market consumerism, modern winemaking is anything but. From the pesticides in the farming, to the gas to run the tractor, to the manufacture of the glass bottles, to the global shipping engine, the wine on your table costs a lot more than the price you paid for it at the store.

So how do you drink green, and well? I recommend treating your wine like you’re treating your food. It drives me bonkers that people are buying organic vegetables and free range chicken and GMO-free breads made from heirloom grains – and serving it with an $8 bottle of chemically enhanced, additive-heavy, commodity-based, 20 million bottle/year production of manufactured plonk. You care about where your tomatoes and your salmon comes from? How about thinking about where your wine comes from too? I would love to see consumers pay as much attention to what goes in your glass as what goes on your plate. Let’s make it an Earth Day resolution.

Here’s what to be mindful of when you’re making your selection:

This is not a regulated term and it differs from place to place. Generally sustainable winemaking (or lutte raisonee, as the French call it) signals a closer connection to the land, farming and winemaking practices. Often chemicals are reduced or eliminated in the vineyard and winery, water and machinery use is monitored closely and every effort is made to produce wine in a clean manner.

Organic farmers use no fungicides or pesticides in the vineyard, relying on natural fertilizers and biological pest control. Becoming certified organic is a lengthy and pricy process – one that many smaller producers don’t have the time or money to do.  Just because it doesn’t say ‘organic’ on the label, doesn’t mean it wasn’t farmed and produced organically.

You can think of biodynamics as “extreme organics”.  This holistic philosophy of farming can include tending vines according to the astronomical calendar and using herbs, minerals and manure for sprays and composts. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, soil maintenance, and the health and well-being of the animals, the farmer, the farm, and the earth. Though debunked by many as zany, in reality, it’s not mysticism at all – it’s the detailed and dedicated caretaking of the individual parts of the process that make up a complete whole.

The most successful way to drink green is to drink local. If your organic Italian Pinot Grigio had to be trucked, barged and flown from the other side of the world, how is that better than the BC bottle from our backyards? You’ve doubtlessly heard of the benefits of the 100 mile diet. Let’s talk about the 100 mile drink.

Think Outside the Bottle
We all know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but numerous alternative wine packaging options have prompted winemakers to think outside the bottle. Tetra Paks, bag in box, plastic bottles (from PET), lightweight glass and kegged wine are all on our marketplace, the beginning drips of a flood of new generation vessels. In addition to lower manufacturing costs and higher recycling benefits, alternative earth-friendly packaging can keep young and fruity wine fresher longer, allowing little or no air seepage through corks. Keep one of these lighter weight options in mind this summer when you’re celebrating nature at the campsite or beach.

It’s easy to go green; use your wine buying dollars to support sustainable wineries. Here are 5 ways you can drink green while drinking exceptionally well.



Synchromesh Wines
Thorny Vines Vineyard Botrytis Affected Riesling 2013
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC
*$14.90 for 375ml

This is not your usual botrytis influenced wine. But then again, Alan Dickinson does not operate your average BC winery. This purposely small, family owned and operated winery focused on terroir-centric wines, sustainably produced from vineyard to glass. That means no chemicals, low cropping, indigenous yeasts and no additives or manipulations in winemaking. When botrytis (noble rot) took hold in part of the Thorny Vines Riesling last fall, Alan decided to listen to nature and pre-select botrytis clusters at a very early stage of ripeness to add to this wine. The result – an apparently dry, aperitif wine with 30 g/L of residual sugar that you can not possibly believe is there. Crisp lime, green apple, apple peel, almonds lime pith and wildflower honey, with Anjou pear bringing up the finish and bright, lively acidity through the lengthy finish. And only 8.6% alcohol! A revelation, and welcome. Alan decided to bottle in 375ml so restaurants/consumers could experiment with this unusual and charismatic wine. 89 points.


Cellar Dwellerchante

M. Chapoutier
Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc 2011
Hermitage, Northern Rhone Valley, France
$76  +444281

We do not drink enough Rhone whites. Yes – the royal we: you and me and the world. What’s not to love about heady, earthy, pointed and exotically perfumed, granitic quartzy mineral-laced full bodied awesome whites? Give me one reason (save for the quantity and price on this market – yeah, yeah). Well once you find some, BUY it. Especially if it’s this stunning 100% Marsanne from the sacred hill of Hermitage in the northern Rhone. Biodynamically farmed, mind. I adore the oily intensity, the heady honey blossom, the grapefruit chalky notes, exotic white flowers and spice, quince and green fig. Round yet focused, with an endless length, this has the structure and heft to match rich seafood, poultry and lighter pork. I tried the fresh 2011 vintage with oyster velouté and it was outstanding. With age, the nutty, honey complexities crescendo. This wine is a baby – try it now, and again in 7-10 years. Make it an Earth Day AND wine resolution – drink more Rhone whites. 94 points.


cono sur sauv blancBudgeteer

Cono Sur
Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2012
San Antonio Valley, Chile
$14.49    +813576

Green from production (organic) to fruits (gooseberry, lime), this single estate Sauvignon Blanc – from the coastal Campo Lindo estate – is as crisp and refreshing as the Pacific, a mere 15 km away. Pleasantly padded with white spring flowers, ripe pear, pink grapefruit and green apple. There is a likeable spicy lemon zest and fragrant tropical blossom to the finish. This Sauv Blanc strikes a great balance between tropical richness and marine freshness, and would be a perfect partner to spot prawns. 87 points.



Weingut Wittmann
Trocken Riesling 2012
Rheinhessen, Germany
*$27  +515486

If you shy from German Riesling because you think they’re all sweet, please let me introduce you to this wine. The family estate was established in 1663, and has been farming organically (in the modern times, that is) since the 1980’s. They achieved organic certification in 1990, and biodynamic certification in 2003. Looking for a very natural expression of site, they ferment each vineyard parcel on their 25 HA estate separately (110 units total). 98% of the winery’s 200,000 bottles/annually is Trocken, or dry. Or in this case, searingly bone dry.  Exemplary tension and depth for a wine under $30. Precise and focused minerality, stone, ripping acid, barely ripe white peaches and green apple – all dancing around the mouth with energy to spare. 90 points.


RumrunnerNo Wineos

Sea Cider
Saanich Peninsula, Vancouver Island

Kristen and Bruce Jordan spent three years planting 1000 organic apple trees – comprising some 50 varieties – on 10 acres of the Saanich Peninsula. Rumrunner is crafted with hand pressed heritage apples including Winter Bananas and Winesaps, slowly fermented with Champagne yeast then aged in rum-soaked bourbon barrels. Notes of brown sugar and spice give complexity to this semi-dry sparkling cider, darker in hue though its aging in the barrels. Hints of quince, brown sugar and exotic spice in this fuller bodied, complex cider facilitate pairings with both savoury and sweeter dishes.


Each week Treve highlights 5 timely and tasty picks. Her weekly choices include Locavore (BC wines), Cellar Dweller (wines to lay down for a while for maximum enjoyment), Budgeteer (wallet-friendly bottles under $15), Adventurer (wines for geeks, enlightening or pushing the envelope) and No Wineos (a non-wine pro-alcoholic beverage). So what are you waiting for? DRINK This!

DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. The price is suggested retail price, and may fluctuate depending on source. Wines are scored out of 100 points.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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