Wednesday, January 30, 2008

“Drink Responsibly” by GreenBean

With global warming affecting all corners of the Earth (tsunamis, Katrina, SoCal Fires, Polar Bears, and Coral Reefs), it’s scarcely alarming that its ever present threat has already taken its toll on the wine industry. We all know how to drink responsibly in regards to safe driving and behavioral practices. How about taking it a step further and indulging in a sip of environmental responsibility?

The global warming impact is taking its toll on several wine regions. As average temperatures increase wine growing conditions change, often for the worse. But what is the wine industry doing to combat these damages? Dr. Gregory Jones, a professor and research climatologist from the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University, has been working on this issue regarding the carbon footprints of vineyard operations. In a recent study Dr. Jones found the growing season temperatures to have increased by an average of 2 degrees Celsius, or 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past fifty years. This temperature change may benefit cooler regions allowing for different varieties of wine from England, Northern France, New England, and Northern California. However, this temperature change may have a very negative impact on warmer regions like California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, Southern France, parts of South America, and South Africa.

While there is certainly no solution to global warming at this time, we can certainly do our best to choose organic wines that at least have a foot in the right direction when it comes to green practices.

So how does one determine the best “green” viticulture practice such as traditional, organic, biodynamic, etc? When asked about the best practices in the wine industry Dr. Jones answered, “My feeling is that most mid-size to small scale operations are "nearly" organic by nature, while larger operations are less organic. I also feel that practicing organic, sustainable production is "easier" on the environment as a whole, but because there are no universal definitions/standards of what organic means it’s very hard to define. However, do they do "enough" to combat climate change? I would say that being organic is a big effort at both on site and up/down stream carbon use, however its not likely a significant climate impact reducing mechanism but more like getting closer to neutral.” Perhaps in 2008, even Bacchus would’ve considered organic wine.

As environmentalism becomes trendy and “going green” is no longer a hippy’s pastime, several industries are taking necessary steps to become more eco-friendly. In his article for Wine Businesses Monthly, Dr. Gregory states, “Of all of the environmental factors, climate arguably exerts the most profound effect on the ability of a region or site to produce quality grapes and therefore wine.” So in order to continue enjoying your favorite white wine from the Napa Valley region, I’ve compiled several resources for enjoying organically grown wine.

There are several wine companies devoted to environmental stewardship. According to The Organic Wine Company, organic wines are free of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and other synthetic chemicals. Essential preservatives, such as sulfur dioxide or sulfites are kept to a minimum. Biodynamic farming keeps the Earth in mind and uses only herbal-based compost starters and field sprays. If you visit their website,, they offer a full refund if you are not completely satisfied with your wine selection.

The Hardy Wine Company of Australia, a division of Constellation Brands, operates vineyards, wineries, packing and distribution facilities all ensure compliance with environmental legislation. The staff receives training in environmental responsibility and attends regular environmental reviews. Australia is well known for their environmentally responsible wine practices. This past August, Adelaide hosted the 4th Australian Wine Industry Environment Conference.

In the U.S., LIVE, a non profit organization standing for low input viticulture and enology educates and certifies vineyards on sustainable and green viticulture practices. LIVE aims to apply winemaking practices which to not depend on chemical fertilizers, which encourage natural maintenance of the land, and which promote sustainable farming practices. Visit for a list of vineyards that have earned this green certification.

Choosing organic wine that comes from vineyards which support green practices is one small and pleasurable way to combat our impact on the environment. I implore you dear oenophiliac, before you imbibe, please drink responsibly.

Biographical Information on Mr. Jones:

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