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Find the right "Green" Wine for you

Nov 10, 2010 09:58PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Few experiences seem more natural than relaxing with a glass of your favorite wine. Unfortunately, over the years the use of pesticides and herbicides became standard practice all over the world. But many wineries are now cleaning up their act by making the entire process of making wine more natural through organic and biodynamic practices. To find the right eco-friendly wine for you, read on.

What makes a wine organic?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program defines a true organic wine as one “made from organically grown grapes without any added sulfites.” Growing grapes organically means no pesticides or herbicides are used in the vineyard. Sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation but are also added to inhibit bacteria growth and preserve wine (and can result in unstable wines). USDA organic certification means no sulfites are added.

What does it mean to be organically grown?

Many wine makers use a second designation listed on the bottle stating the wine was made with organically grown grapes—the grapes are grown organically and the wine maker may use a small amount of sulfites. Further complicating things, the USDA requires any wines with more than 10 parts per million sulfites (practically all wines) must add the warning “Contains Sulfites” for people who are allergic. I also want to debunk the myth that sulfites are the cause of your hangover. Histamines, tannins in red wines, or simple overindulgence are more likely the cause.

What is biodynamics?

Biodynamic methods were based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, an early 20th-century pioneer who advocated an all-natural approach to agriculture. Biodynamic practices go far beyond organic. The goal in biodynamics is to make a winery totally self-sustainable by using the land and its resources to farm and ward off pests, and following the rhythms of the land in order to create wine that is a total expression of its origin.

How do I find organic wines in my local shop?

Even wine professionals will admit that it is not easy to find organic wines. The designations described above can be a starting point; however, the vast majority of wines made organically are not certified or labeled as such. There are a few reasons why wineries do not certify. The process is paper intensive and can be cost prohibitive for small or start-up wineries. Many biodynamic and organic producers all over the world refuse to become USDA-certified organic because they believe the standards do not go far enough. What’s a “green wine” drinker to do? Go online and do research. Make friends with the salesperson at your local wine store, who should know which wineries use organic or biodynamic practices even if the bottles are not labeled as such. I have recently seen several stores in the area making this process easier by specifically identifying wines with an organic focus.

Whether motivated by a desire to protect the planet or just to produce a more authentic product, organic and biodynamic wine makers are on the rise. You may need to do some hunting and research, but once you find these green wines you can toast to a healthier earth with each sip.

Try these “green” wines:

Yorkville Cellars Semillon 2005, Made from organically grown grapes
This white wine from California’s Mendocino County is based on the same blend used for white Bordeaux. With 75 percent Semillon and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc, this white has the best of both worlds: the body and richness of Semillon with the crisp acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc. Intense flavors of citrus, pear, and almonds are offset by a hint of grassiness. As Yorkville Cellars is the most awarded organic winery in California, it should be tops on your list of green producers. Retails for $20.

Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône 2004, Biodynamic producer
This biodynamic producer in the Rhône Valley of France is also a favorite of renowned wine critic Robert Parker. You are sure to enjoy this medium-bodied red made from a blend of the classic Rhône red grapes—Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvèdre. Flavors of dried cherry, plum, and earthy tones finish with firm tannins. Not only is this Côtes du Rhône a powerhouse but an amazing bargain too. A rough decant is recommended prior to serving. Retails for $16.

Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2004, Made from organically grown grapes
This Napa Valley producer has been farming organically since 1988. To take things a step further, Frog’s Leap has added solar power; and in 2005, they built a new hospitality center according to green building standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. As for the Zinfandel, it is wonderfully elegant, blended with Petite Sirah and Carignan. This full-bodied red has cherry and cedar notes with a touch of spice. Yum! Or as they say at Frog’s Leap: “Ribbit!” Retails for $17.

Green Drinks: Not Just for St. Patrick's Day

Looking to taste some great organic wines and learn how to be more green? Consider attending a Green Drinks meeting in Annapolis. Spearheaded by Lynne Forsman of Nautical Destinations, Green Drinks meets each month to enjoy a selection of delicious organic wines. While sipping their wine, attendees have the pleasure of listening to a guest speaker give tips on making your home (or workplace) more eco-friendly. For more information, visit or

By Laurie Forster

Professional wine coach Laurie Forster studied with the American Sommelier Association in Manhattan and earned a certificate in viticulture and vinification. Ms. Forster now works with private and corporate clients to create events and tours that demystify wine one glass at a time. For more information on Ms. Forster, visit