Green Promise Natural and Organic Products and Research

Green Wine – The Best Pairing to a Sustainable Environment

By Dawn Thull, Green Promise
1/27/08 Digg this

organic wine

Consuming organic and biodynamic wines supports sustainability by avoiding the use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Up to 240 different chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides have been found in the making of conventional wines. The damage to the environment is unquestionable, but these chemical sprays can also enter the wine vat through grape skin residues or from the pulp from the plant itself. You can avoid these chemicals by switching to organic wine. Organic wines have come a long way in the last few years so don’t give up on them if you’ve had a bad experience in the past. Next time you’re in the mood for a little vino, look for any of these green wine labels:

100% Organic label

In order for a wine to bear the USDA certified organic label, it must be grown from organically grown grapes without the use of added sulfites. Certified organic wine can contain no more than 20 ppm of naturally occurring sulfites.

Made with Organic Ingredients, Made with Organic Grapes, Organically Grown labels

Wines with any of these labels must have at least 70 percent organic ingredients, with the remaining 30 percent of ingredients either an agricultural ingredient that is not grown organically or another substance like added yeast. These wines may contain added sulfites, but the total must still be under 100 parts per million. They also may contain yeasts, bentonite or egg white gases (e.g., N2, CO2) from the winemaking process.

Biodynamic Wines

Biodynamic Wines go beyond organic by treating the farm or vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem, encouraging extensive root systems and active soil life through methods such as cultivating the soil and planting cover crops, using natural fertilizers, homeopathic sprays, herbal preparations, lunar cycles, promoting a biodiversity of plants and encouraging natural predators of insect pests. Biodynamic principles do allow for the use of sulfites though. Biodynamic wines are certified by Demeter USA, a globally recognized certifying organization which uses strict guidelines. In order to be certified, a winery must first be certified organic (a three year process), then undergo 24 months using strict Biodynamic practices (as overseen by Demeter).

Vegan Wines

Winemakers, both organic and conventional, are not obliged to declare on the label when they use animal by-products as fining agents to clarify wine. These include egg white (to brighten red wines), casein (a milk protein to make wine taste softer), gelatin (removes bitterness) and isinglass (derived from fish). A vegan wine, on the other hand, uses no animal products whatsoever thus reducing the toll taken on land, water, and energy usage.

Sustainably Produced Wine

There isn’t a certification available for sustainably produced wine, so you will just need to read the label. Since most US wine comes from California, check The California Winegrowing Alliance who lists sustainable wineries found in California.

Carbon Footprint of Your Wine Choice

According to a study posted on, organic wine definitely has a lower green house gas intensity, but it is not a huge leap from conventional to organic (not taking into consideration the local ecosystem). The bigger hit is taken on the transportation of the wine or the food miles. There is a “green line” that runs through the center of Ohio. To the west of that line, it is more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked in from California (90% of American wine comes from California). For the easties, it’s better to consume wine that has been imported benefiting from the efficiencies of container shipping and decreased truck time.

All of these different labels can be confusing, so for those interested in wines which are kind to the environment, look for wines that are made from organically grown grapes or the biodynamic label. For those interested in additional health benefits, look for the certified organic label. Salute!

Suggested Green Promises when consuming wine:

If you are having a hard time finding wine locally, check out our list of online organic and biodynamic wineries.

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