The Wine Industry Goes Sustainable

A closer look into the trends taking the win industry by storm.

The wine industry goes sustainable.
••• The wine industry goes sustainable. Credit: Johann Oswald - was-fuers-auge. Getty Images.

One day it’s Rosé, the next it’s Grenache. Whatever your varietal of choice may be, choosing a quality wine, is always on trend. In 2017 the wine industry is moving towards a singular focus: sustainability. Forbes recently reported that the sustainable wine industry is booming, and that more than “$60 billion in American wine trade consider sustainability when they make purchases and when they lay out plans for their future.” With this in mind, we raise our glasses to the best wineries around the U.S., which are pioneering their way in the field.

Sustainable vs. Organic

First things first. Sustainable wine is different than organic wine. Organic is different than biodynamic. While they all fall under the same umbrella as being “eco-friendly”, they each have subtle differences. Organic farming/viticulture refers to the purity of product and using non-synthesized ingredients. Biodynamic looks at the holistic health of the agriculture and ecological self-sufficiency. Sustainable farming considers mitigation and reduction of waste as the foremost important process. All of these techniques contribute to healthier and often better tasting wines. Organic wines eliminate sulfates during the growing, which (if you are sensitive to sulfur) can lead to fewer hangovers.

Organizations like SIP (Sustainability in Practice), LIVE certified and CCSW (Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery) help consumers choose wine based on a high set of criteria.

A yearly audit of factors like pesticide use, Chapter 11 Year End Water usage and Nitrogen Use all come into play for a winery to get certified.

California takes the Lead

It’s no surprise that California has cornered the wine market in the U.S. Ideal growing climate and conditions have made it a formidable contender with International wines.

This is no exception for the organic movement. In fact, Sonoma, California is on track to be the first 100% sustainable wine region in the nation by 2019. Vineyards like Quivira, La Crema, and Benziger are stars in the Sonoma region. And Frog’s Leap, Bond and Casa Nuestra are some of the well known players in Napa.  A lesser know, but exciting aspirant in the region is Long Meadow Ranch and their wine estates. Run by the Hall family, this 650- acre landscape hosts three different estates, a celebrated restaurant, cafe, general store and chef’s table. The focus across the board is rooted in excellence through responsible farming. Each estate has it’s own brand of organic wine and you must be part of the farm’s Corral Club to purchase bottles.

California and Beyond

While Sonoma and Napa have a tight reign on being the ‘best’ wine region, there are many other regions that are buzzworthy: Willamette, Oregon being one of them. Willamette just won the 2016 Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Awards: Wine region of the Year. Oregon has long had a reputation for being stewards of the environment and was the nation’s first state to start recycling bottles and have strict land usage policies. It’s only natural that their care for the land extends to winemaking as well.

Soter Vineyard is an ecologically managed, estate-grown, fruit-focused vineyard. They are L.I.V.E. certified and in the process of converting entirely to organic viticulture. They produce three different lines of wine; Soter, North Valley and Planet Oregon. Planet Oregon is their sustainably grown Pinot Noir and every bottle sold donates a portion of the proceeds to the Oregon Environmental Council.

Hop over to Big Table Farm for a farm/ vineyard experience. Originally from Napa, the owners moved to the valley in 2006. They have a smaller production of cases and focus on a symbiotic environment between the vineyard and the farm. Try the Laughing Pig Rosé for a lush fruity taste and rich mouth feel. Or the 2015 Earth Pinot Noir for a balanced wine with chocolate ganache, cherry, balsam wood and black pepper notes.

The list of wineries that are shifting gears towards responsible growing and harvesting is increasing at a steady pace. Other notable mentions in the Napa region and beyond are, Barbour, Ampelos Cellars and Bonny Doon. While time will tell how climate change will shape the landscape, if the trend towards responsible wine growing continues; there is hope that we’ll all be drinking wine for a long time.