Friday, December 4, 2009

Are grapes finally going "Green"?

In recent times a debate has been waged on the bio dynamic, sustainable and organic nature of Grape growing and wine making. To some, it may seem as if it is just a craze of frou frou fluff that some marketer came up with. Yet, after diving deeper into the topic it is obvious that there are significant differences from these "green" methods compared to the now "traditional" methods of pesticides, machines and genetic modifications.

I say the word "traditional" in a very light sense; seeing that the true traditional wine making methods were sustainable before the dawn of the industrial revolution and especially after the second World War.

Today, however, many consumers are beginning to struggle on what these "green" terms truly mean. This is where Wirtz Beverage's Master Sommelier Thomas Burke began to help define these for a better understanding of just what is going on in the "new" production methods of wine.

I think everyone has heard that we, Americans especially, have become an extremely wasteful culture over the past few decades. CO2 emissions are on the center stage of a world debate along with trash consumption, chemical absorptions in the soil and water concerns throughout the country; this is where wine producers are beginning to take a stand.

It is surprising to learn that New Zealand is now at the forefront of the sustainability movement and the pressure comes from their internal wine industry and vineyards such as Craggy Range and not the government! There are now similar organizations set up throughout the wine industries of the United states ranging from Lodi, California all the way to Washington State. Yet, there is little government regulation to be found and it is unlikely in the near future.

So what are the differences between organic, bio dynamic and sustainability. Obviously, they are all closely related and intertwined. Organic is defined here by the USDA, basically no chemicals or additives are allowed in the agricultural process and in the wine process there are some limitations as well including the amount of sulfites to be used. Sustainably take this organic process one step further. The idea is to have the vineyard function as a whole, meaning no outside materials are needed for the production and maintenance of the farm. This may mean producing energy on site, using composting as a valuable fertilizer technique and a number of other methods.

Bio Dynamic viticulture uses the same ideals or organic viticulture. The seperation is the belief of using nature's harmonious relationships to help maintain the vineyard as a whole. from plant to plant and plant to animal relations. These relationships and ideals are further demonstrated in this pyramid...

The main questions consumers have is "Will this make my wine taste better?" This isn't necessarily the fact, but I can bet the environment will feel better.

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