2 thoughts on “Sustainable Winegrowing

  1. Yay! Good for them, and good for those of us who seek out sustainable wine. On New Year’s Eve, Karen and I tried a bottle of Pinot Blanc that Deb brought us from Robert Sinskey Vineyards. It’s great stuff!

    The tough part is figuring out which winegrowers are sustainable when the wines aren’t labeled as such. Do NSWG members note that on the label at all?

  2. Some NSWG members note it; some don’t. Some winegrowers will say that the wine is farmed “sustainably.” Unfortunately, this word is not regulated, so what “sustainable” translates to depends on the individual winery and vineyard. Some do it just for the selling point. Other wineries and vineyards do it because it is the right thing to do but don’t worry about the marketing aspect of it. In general, Napa and Sonoma winegrapes are being farmed in more and more sophisticated, sustainable ways. For example, pretty much everyone uses cover crops for soil enrichment and erosion control — something that wasn’t the case even 10 years ago.

    As for being able to label a wine “organic” there are some very strict regulations (via such organizations as California Ceritfied Organic Farmers and the USDA National Organic Program) that set up exactly where “organic” and the organic seals can appear on the label. In the case of RSV, the vineyards are certified organic but the winery is not. Therefore, we put “made with organic grapes” on our back label (or we will be). General consensus is that wines made by organic wineries are not that good. Bonterra is an organic label put out by Fetzer. It says organic on the front label; the winery does not add sulfites (naturally ocurring have to be below 10 ppm) nor DAP – Diammonium phosphate — both substances that control fermentation and bad creepy crawlies but have no organic alternatives. (Sulfur does have an organic alternative and if you want organic on the front label but no seals, you can add up to 100ppm.) However, Bonterra is just an ok wine. RSV wants to make high quality, sustainable wines; you see the dilemma. So for now we at least farm as sustainably as we can. It is an imperfect science, but we are continually striving to improve.

    I think I will suggest that NSWG put a list on its website of wineries that are members. Another way to find out would be to go to your local Wholefood’s or wineshop and ask. Most nowadays will carry organic and “sustainably grown” wines and will be able to tell you about them. Often, a visit to a winery’s website will also be enlightening. I’d be more apt to trust a place with certified organic vineyards rather than one that says it is “sustainable” but other than that offers no further proof.

    If you want more info on organic regultions, you can check out the USDA NOP website – http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexNet.htm – or California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) – http://www.ccof.org.

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