If you know me (which at this stage of reading my blog you probably don’t, but let’s just pretend you do), you know I like me some wine. I’ll usually indulge in a glass or two on Fridays, sometimes Saturdays, pretty much any day that ends in d-a-y. And that’s doubly true for Valentine’s Day.
But besides the health benefits (that is why we all drink wine, isn’t it?), that nightly glass of wine might also come with bunches of chemicals. Wine goes through a lot of the same farming practices that all other crops do, which means, pesticides. And grapes are part of the “Dirty Dozen,” which means they are one of the top 12 foods with the most pesticide residue. Which also means that that very same pesticide residue is probably making it into your wine. Yuck.
That being said, there are tons (literally tons) of options out there if you prefer your wine without the added chemicals. Even better, it might even taste better. A recent UCLA study published in the Journal of Wine Economics found that according to reviews of over 74,000 wines, the ones that were eco-certified scored significantly higher on flavor than non-certified. Score!
There are couple different levels of “organic,” so a few things to know about labels before I send you out into the world in search of organic wine.
- “Made with Organic Grapes” or “Made with Organic Ingredients” means that the wine that contains at least 70% organic ingredients. Sulfites can be added, but it may not beyond 100 parts per million.
- Organic means that the wine was made with 95% organically grown ingredients (the other 5% must not be available organically). On the label, you’ll see the USDA organic symbol. Again the certifying agency must be listed. No sulfites are added, though the wine can contain naturally occurring sulfites.
- 100% Organic means the wine is made from 100% organically grown ingredients. The wine also was monitored throughout its entire production process. The bottle bears the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal (the certifying agency must be listed). No sulfites are added, though it can contain naturally occurring sulfites (or sulfur dioxide, an antimicrobial substance).
- Biodynamic really goes above and beyond Biodynamic means the wine that is 100% organic, plus the grower has gone beyond to try to bring the farming process more closely in tune with nature.
So, without further ado (it is Saturday after all, and I have some wine drinking to do), here are just a few of the many options out there:
A to Z Wineworks started in 2002 by four friends/wine industry Veterans (I would like to join this posse, please) with the goal of offering “Aristocratic Wines at Democratic Prices.” The B Corp Certified company also sought out to do this in a sustainable manner. A to Z works with over 100 Oregon vineyards that are using biodynamic or organic principles to farm, and they source grapes from a range of soils and micro-climates across the state to add complexity and depth to all of their wines. Their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility goes beyond farming though, and into every level of their company from suppliers to production to distributors to trade. Through everything they strive to make sure all of their practices are economically, environmentally and socially sound and sustainable. I’ll drink to that.
Another certified B Corp, 100 Percent Wine was launched in 2014 by a dad of a boy living with a disability. Because of that, the company was designed to change the employment landscape for people living with disabilities (PLWD). To that end, 100 Percent Wine donates all of their profits to local charities in the markets they serve that help PLWD get and keep jobs. Added bonus, their grapes come from vineyards in Lodi, California that have been growing sustainable wine grapes for five generations.
Bonterra vineyards started farming organically in 1987, long before it was a trend. Their thought process was that organic grapes produce the purest expressions of the varietals and land on which they are farmed. Instead of pesticides, the Certified B Corp, Bonterra uses sheep and chickens – they roam through the vineyards munching on insects and trimming the weeds. They also plant a variety of cover crops down the rows between the vines, which helps suppress weeds, build productive soil and control pests. And if that weren’t enough, they were also named American Winery of the year in 2016 at the Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Awards. I’m sold.
Sustainably farmed and family owned since 1982, Cline Cellars uses a method of farming that has been described as “beyond organic.” Cline uses the Green String faming method, which is a system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. The system minimizes pollution from the air, soil and water and optimizes the productivity of soil, plants, animals and people. The vineyard uses only non-synthetic pesticides, they use goats and sheep as their weeders, they compost and renew all of the digestible organic waste and materials from their winery, and the winery is 100-percent solar powered.