It would probably be redundant to say that going green and organic is at the top of today's list of trends. In fact I would consider it more of a long-lasting movement rather than a trend. And for someone who tries to take part in that movement as much as possible, I don't drink a lot of organic wine. Gasp! Allow me to explain.
Being organic in general has its challenges. But wine grapes specifically can present extreme difficulties. Most quality vineyards and wineries would love to take the organic approach, but it can be tremendously costly and time consuming to gain all of the certifications. There are a prohibitive number of hoops to jump through and because of strict regulations, it can be a very risky venture.
Some vintners grow their grapes as organically as possible, yet don't seek the certifications in the case that an environmental or pest problem occurs. A phylloxera (an insect that attacks grapevines) epidemic could be devastating to an entire farm—killing not just the current season’s growth, but destroying the vines entirely.
Yes, "spray" does sound scary and the less they use, the better. But grapevines aren't easily reestablished. If a farm’s crop is destroyed and needs to be replanted, it can take years for the plants to fully mature and produce grapes. The heritage of a vine is often very important to the vintner as well.
Another point to consider is the environmental awareness most vintners have. Their product relies wholly on the location and climate, so one can understand the deep respect they have for the land. And with the threat of global warming, vintners feel a great responsibility to protect and preserve it.
With that said, many non-organic wineries are doing as much as they can to aid in the green movement. For example, some vineyards take a sustainable approach to their practices. Sustainable agriculture attempts to minimize the impact on the environment by reducing pollutants and chemical usage whenever possible, reducing energy consumption, using recycled materials, and reducing water consumption by collecting rain water for their crops.
But to me, it's the extra touches that matter. The Dreaming Tree winery, for example, produces their bottles with lighter glass to reduce fuel usage in transportation. Cono Sur, which is a carbon neutral vineyard, doesn't allow motorized vehicles past a certain point. In fact, they ride bicycles around the vineyard!
So, here's my general opinion on organic wine:
I have found some fantastic organic wines (such as Natura from Chile or Our Daily Red from California) but I have also seen where the organic certification is purely for marketing reasons and the quality just isn't there. I also recognize that there is a plethora of wineries doing what they can to reduce their footprint and even improve the environment. So, I feel an obligation to support them as well.
Long story short: Organic practices are important, but I don’t necessarily look for organic certification when selecting a bottle of wine.
Photo by Tony Frantz