It Is Easy Being Green

09/02/2008 19:24

 It Is Easy Being Green

By Marian Jansen op de Haar

As Kermit sings it, it’s not easy being green. While the famed frog was lamenting the color of his skin, today many people are feeling a similar frustration in their attempts to “go green.” Fortunately, the eco-movement has opened up new possibilities and options for individuals who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint. More and more wineries are embracing sustainable farming methods, making the search for “green” wine not as difficult as one might think.

What was once thought of as a unique trend among a select few boutique wineries that produced organic or biodynamic wines, sustainable viticulture (while maybe not all organic) has certainly evolved to be less of a rarity. Organizations such as the Napa Valley Sustainable Winegrowing Group have sprung up throughout wine regions to support growing practices that are both environmentally sound and economically viable. In 2006, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance reported a 24 percent increase in the number of wineries adopting sustainable practices.

Sustainable agriculture developed out of the green revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. Diametrically opposed to the growing trends that would eventually become “conventional” agriculture, this movement looked for better ways to meet the food needs of an expanding world population without damaging the ecosystem. While organic farming is perhaps the best-known type of sustainable agriculture, farms do not need to be organic certified to participate in sustainable practices. Other methods, including Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which controls pests with natural predators among other things, and biodynamics, also fall under the umbrella of sustainable agriculture.

Developed in the 1920s by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics gave impetus to the organic movement. It strives to balance the interrelationship between the soil, plants and animals on the farm so that they work as a closed, self-nourishing system. Because of this, many proponents of biodynamic viticulture argue that this method brings out purer fruit flavors and the true terroir in grapes.

So what exactly do all these buzz words mean for your bottle of Pinot Blanc? Basically it means the wine you’re already drinking may be greener than you realize. As opposed to many produce farmers who are quick to point out that their products are organic, few wineries use the organically-grown label, feeling that is has little to no marketing power for their brands that already have strong customer loyalty. However, if you’re committed to buying green, here are some wines that fit the bill.

Founded in 1972, Joseph Phelps Vineyards grows mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Rhone varietals using biodynamic practices. See for yourself and try their Joseph Phelps, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2003. Bright in taste, dark in color, this wine has spicy notes of cinnamon and licorice with cherry and currant fruit. Creamy with balanced tannins make this wine fresh and delightful.

If you want a wine made from certified organic grapes, look for Tablas Creek. This vineyard received their certification from California Certified Organic Farmers in 2002. Their Tablas Creek, Côtes de Tablas Paso Robles, 2004. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Counoise and Mourvèdre, this red is spicy with red raspberry, wild berry and black cherry fruit. It finishes with firm tannins. To use the term “organic” for a wine versus a wine made from organic grapes, the wine must comply with the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and be free of added sulfites. While the idea of wines with fewer sulfites may seem appealing at first (sulfites are a natural by-product of the fermentation process), it’s important to realize that most wineries insist that added sulfites are necessary to preserve freshness and deter spoilage organisms. The sulfite debate is the main reason for the low number of certified organic wineries.

While the NOSB does not allow the use of added sulfites in its definition of “organic wine” it does allow them in its definition of wine made from grapes that were “organically grown.” For an excellent example of such a wine, try the Buena Vista, Chardonnay Carneros, 2005. Ripe fruit flavors of pear and melon, this wine is easy to drink with well-balanced acidity. Perfect for springtime and warm weather, try this wine with grilled swordfish or a rosemary-lemon chicken.

Even if the grapes were not grown organically, they still could have come from sustainable vineyards, turning your favorite reds into green alternatives. Oregon’s Argyle Winery is one of many growers that favor sustainability. Try their Argyle, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, 2005. Light on the palate with a fragrant nose, this wine features plum and currant fruit and a bit of allspice. The finish is silky smooth. Before you know it, the bottle will be gone!

Another sustainably grown wine sure to sustain your interests is Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Yamhill Cuvee, 2005. Distinctive cinnamon-laced cherry fruit and clove-laced raspberry spice complement the very fine, lingering tannins. A bit edgy, this Pinot will stand up well to gamey meats.

Maybe it’s not so bad being green after all. Happy Tasting!


Marian Jansen op de Haar is the Director of Wine for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

She has over 30 years of wine experience under her belt and single-handedly developed the Fleming's 100 wines-by-the-glass program. 

Gottannins is happy to have Marian as a guest contributor to our site and if this debut piece is a sign of what to comes, we think we'll all learn some awesome new things about the wine world. Stay tuned for additional stories and keep the feedback coming. 

Her bio may be viewed here.








Topic: It Is Easy Being Green


green wine

Where do I buy those wines and how much are they?


Great Green Article

I really enjoyed Marian Jansen op de Haar's article! I can't wait to try the wines she recommended that would stay true to my "green" heart.

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