April is Earth Month, and we’re bringing awareness to small changes that can help preserve our planet in an impactful way. So we asked Martin Reyes, Certified Sommelier, wine educator and Williams-Sonoma Wine tasting team member, to give us a primer on all of the environmentally-conscious wines on the market, and explain what labels and terms like sustainable, organic and biodynamic wine really mean.
One might consider sustainable wineries to be ethical pragmatists: They strive to minimize their grape-growing and winemaking impact on the environment and their communities. Various practices, which vary across countries and regions, include audits for energy efficiency, water conservation and quality certifications; standards for pest and soil management; recycling goals; clean energy growing and winemaking processes; and adherence to standard-of-labor practices.
While organic agriculture is often part of the process, grapes from sustainable vineyards aren’t necessarily certified organic. However, if a winery is marked “sustainable” on our site, you can be certain they are trying hard to be thoughtful stewards of their land. Two of our favorite sustainably-grown wines:
For wine, the term “organic” can be confusing and is often misinterpreted. A USDA-certified organic wine requires that grapes are grown in accordance with organic farming, meaning that no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides were used during the growing of grapes. USDA-certified organic wine also requires that wines be bottled with very low levels of sulfites. It is important to note that most wine will spoil quickly and keep poorly in this environment, which is why sulfites are conventionally used in winemaking around the world. Here are two of our favorite examples of organic wine:
- 2011 Gothic Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills
- 2014 Bodegas Eidosela Néboa Albariño, Rias Baixas
Biodynamic wines are equal parts organic farming, astrology and homeopathy. Biodynamic winemakers are committed to holistic views of their wineries and their connections to the ecosystem, the earth and beyond. They have a minimalist approach to winemaking, and often aim to have vineyards that are self-renewing and self-sustaining. This means that they strive for a wide diversity of plant, animal and insect life. They also follow other practices, such as creating special compost mixtures and following the lunar calendar. Below are two prime examples of biodynamic wines.