Green Drinks & Green Wine –biodynamic, organic & sustainable practices explained

shapeimage_3Whenever I bring up Green Drinks, the national green monthly networking event, people always assume I am talking about “green” as in sustainable drinks.

Uh no, but that’s a good topic too and one that confuses people as well. Since I just happen to have some info on it and a desire to let you in on some wonderful “green” wines including the Vino V Pinot Noir I want to feature for tomorrow’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #58 hosted by Katie at Gonzo Gastronomy, I figured I’d take on a intro to both Green Drinks and “Green” Drinks especially green wines in this post.

First, Green Drinks–the event. Then Green Drinks, the beverage with particular attention to wine, my favorite drink of all and possibly one of the most easily available green drink (after water and likely most non-alcoholic beverages!)

Green Drinks is a networking event for people who are “environmentally minded.” Casual gatherings, held monthly in 400 cities around the world, bring like-minded people together to eat, drink, socialize, problem solve, network, find jobs, learn, and make jobs better. Locally we meet on the second Wednesday of the month and it appears to be sponsored by GreenLiving Magazine; I’ve gone twice now.shapeimage_7

In April, we met at the new Red Cross headquarters in Camarillo where officials showed off how they are pursuing LEEDS certification and described the many ways the Red Cross is trying to go green. About 30 people attended, and I saw familiar as well as new faces. Some wine and appetizers were available, but they weren’t necessarily “green”–either by being locally produced or organically grown.

In May, I rode my bike over to the Crown Plaza on the promenade near the ocean. The restaurant served excellent fried calamari and a tuna appetizer as well. People paid for their own drinks; I had a house special using locally made Limoncello that was really yummy–not too sweet and not too sour. Over the course of the evening, about 30 people passed through.

This month, on Wednesday June 10 from 5:30pm-7:30pm, we meet at Sheila’s Place Wine Bar and Restaurant, 302 N. Lantana,  Camarillo. Maybe I’ll see you at our local green drinks or in spirit at yours!

So what about this other “green drinks”? What makes an alcoholic beverage “green”? And I don’t mean St Paddy’s Day green beer or other artificially green drinks.

Typically it means a beverage made from organic, biodynamic, or sustainably grown grapes, grains etc and/or produced using sustainable practices. For some examples of organic beers, go here.

According to an article by Heather Stober Fleming, a wine professional who lives in Fairhaven MA ( http://tinyurl.com/dbzakd), “As the green movement gains momentum, more wine drinkers are seeking out wines that are made from producers that are using Earth-friendly farming practices.”

If a wine is made from certified organic grapes, the label will read “organically grown,” “organically farmed,” or “made with organically grown grapes.” The fundamental idea behind organic farming is to harvest grapes that have been grown without pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or any other synthetic chemicals.

Methods like crop rotation, tillage, and composting are used to maintain the health of the soil. Other natural methods are also used to control weeds, insects and other pests that can damage the vineyard or the fruit.

It is important to know that most wines made from organically grown grapes will not be labeled as “organic wine.” In order for a wine to be labeled as “organic wine,” it must be made from certified organic grapes and contain no added sulfites.

Biodynamic is the highest form of organic farming. It goes beyond the elimination of all chemicals. It incorporates the environment in and around the vineyard and works with nature to apply the knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil. No artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides may be used. Farmers achieve pest control through soil management and the use of biodynamic sprays and teas. Crop rotation, natural vineyard compost, and manure are employed to promote a healthy crop. Biodynamic farmers nurture a diverse animal, bird, and insect population to promote natural control of predators. The vineyard must be free of all synthetic components for 36 months and under biodynamic farming for 24 months before it can be certified. Weeds are controlled by using cover crops and other mechanical or by-hand methods. The majority of composting material used is generated by the vineyard itself. What is taken out of the land is put back in.

The Demeter Association, an independent certifier, is the organization that certifies a vineyard as biodynamic. The certification is extremely difficult to achieve, must be renewed every year and is the ultimate guarantee of purity in agricultural products. Sustainable agriculture produces crops without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting the environment. It is agriculture that follows the principles of nature to develop systems for the best crop possible.

As far as I know, there are no certifications or legal guidelines for sustainability. It is more of a way of life and a commitment that the farmer has made to the land to produce the best product possible, without stripping the land of what nature has given it. All organic and biodynamic growers practice sustainable agriculture, but not all sustainable agriculturists are certified organic or biodynamic. The wine industry is not only green in the vineyard, but the wineries as well.

There are more than 75 wineries in California that have switched to solar power to supply electricity for their winery and other facilities on their property such as tasting rooms, office buildings, and residences.

The article also mentions these widely available wines:

* Bonterra, one of the first wineries in California to commit to organic and sustainable agriculture. All of their wines are made with certified organically grown grapes. They also make one red wine, The McNabb, which is certified biodynamic.

* Benziger — The Benziger family is an industry leader in organic, biodynamic, and sustainable grape growing. They are going through the certification process so the wines that are distributed across the country do not have the organic certification on the label yet but have been grown in sustainable vineyards. The certified organic wines are currently only available at the winery. Benziger Tribute is a Bordeaux blend that is biodynamic certified. It’s hard to find, but well worth it if you do.

* Cono Sur from Chile produces a Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere made with organically grown grapes.

* Öko from France produces a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend made with organically grown grapes.

* All the following wineries are solar powered — Cline, Domaine Carneros, Saintbury, Fetzer, Far Niente, Frog’s Leap, Grgich Hills, Long Meadow Ranch, Merryvale, Robert Mondavi, Robert Sinskey, Shafer, Silverado, Spottswoode, Eos, Clos du Bois, Rodney Strong, J. Lohr, and St. Francis.

Usually, information on the front and back label can inform the consumer of earth-friendly practices that were used to produce a specific wine.

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