We all love it after a hard day’s work, right? But here’s how to drink wine more sustainably!
By Diane Small
‘Wine time’ is pretty much every woman’s favourite hour. There’s nothing quite like a nice glass of white when out with the girls, or perhaps a decent rosé after work. And of course, dining out just isn’t the same without a rich glass of something that just perfectly complements your meal.
But are you enjoying your tipple in the most sustainable way possible?
If you care about buying ethical clothing or using clean cosmetics, it should be equally important that your favourite cabernet or pinot noir is also sustainable.
Not sure what that would entail? Read on!
5 Ways To Drink Wine More Sustainably
1. Look For Certifications
Did you know that just as there are certifications to ensure cosmetics are cruelty-free, or that clothing is made from eco-friendly materials, there are also sustainability certificates for winemakers?
For example, LIVE independently certifies the practices of winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest. They look for whether the grapes are grown in a native habitat and if wildlife is protected through rigorous biodiversity requirements.
They also ensure that worker health and safety standards are met, and that there is a healthy, vibrant community actively working to improve the quality of the natural and built environments in which they live and work.
Other similar certifiers include the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Stellar Certification Services, LODI Rules, and Sustainable in Practice (SIP). Each of these organisations are non-profits that supports the agricultural community, embrace environmental responsibility and promote sustainable winegrowing practices.
Other considerations include conserving water, composting waste to make fertilisers, emissions reductions, and decreasing energy and pesticide consumption.
Just check the label of your bottle to see if your wine is certified sustainable.
2. Go For Organics and Biodynamics
Of course, numerous sustainable winemakers also follow organic and biodynamics practices. In fact, wineries and vineyards that are serious about putting back what they take out from the environment believe that organic or biodynamic farming is an essential step.
For wineries to claim organic labeling, the grapes used in the wine must be organic and follow a natural wine-making process. This indicates that not only the grapes are grown organically, but as well as the other things that go into the wine, like yeast, should be organic, too. In the USA, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines for labeling products, and they are the only agency that issues certified organic labeling. In Italy, it would be Agricoltura Biologica, and in France, it’s Agriculture Biologique.
As for biodynamic farming, this refers to a holistic farming method that is genuinely beneficial for the environment.
For example, a biodynamic vineyard could have sheep eating weeds around the grapevines, instead of using herbicides. Aside from that, biodynamics also takes farming to an almost spiritual level. For example, biodynamic farming will account for the different phases of the moon before harvesting. To certify that wineries are biodynamic, the Demeter Association, Inc. certifies these producers and ensure that they follow strict protocols.
Some may think that organic and biodynamic practices mean sacrificing flavor. However, most natural and biodynamic wines are well-renowned for their unique taste. One of my personal favourites is Volnay wines. Enjoy and find Volnay wines that are organic and biodynamic from Bourgogne. These wines are proven to be some of the best in this region of France.
3. Support Local Businesses
While some countries, like France, Italy and Chile, are renowned for their fine winemaking traditions, drinking locally produced bottles is one of the best ways to drink wine more sustainably.
We can all agree that emissions from transportation have a critical effect on the environment. So why not minimise your carbon footprint by picking up your wine straight from the source?
If possible, try to drink and support wine from winemakers that are within a 100-kilometer radius. Choosing a locally produced wine will not only reduce emissions, but will also allow you to get to know local winemakers and support their entire community.
And as an added bonus – some local winemakers will even allow you to return your bottles to them directly instead of tossing them in the recycling bin, meaning waste and even further emissions are reduced!
4. Go Vegan
Did you know that the winemaking process often involves loads of animal parts, including eggs, blood, oils, bone marrow and gelatin from animal bones and hooves? Yep, for reals! During the winemaking process, the grapey liquid is filtered through substances called “fining agents.” This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavours and colourings, and other organic particles – but those agents are never on the label. In fact, they’re often considered to be trade secrets!
If you want to avoid the use of icky animal stuff going into the making of your wine, you’ll have to look for a vegan brand. There are increasing numbers of vegan winemakers, so don’t worry! It’s easier to find a cruelty-free bottle than you think.
5. Look For The Classics
Once, wine only came in glass bottles topped by cork. And that was great.
The glass is recyclable, and the cork actually comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, and does no harm to the plant whatsoever. In fact, by choosing a wine that comes in a traditionally corked glass bottle, you’re helping to preserve cork oak forests throughout the world.
Sadly, though, easier to open screw caps are becoming more popular, as is synthetic cork (a.k.a. ‘plastic’).
This isn’t just worse for the environment – it’s worse for the wine.
Fuller wines benefit from a little oxygen that cork naturally allows the wine to take in while it’s in the bottle,” says Guy Foster, the sommelier at Matignon, Paris. “The tiny bit of air inside the bottle helps smooth out the tannins, which give reds their velvety mouth-feel, but can also create a harsher taste. The extra air oxidises the tannins so they’re softer, making the wine even more drinkable and approachable to our consumers.”
In other words, real wine connoisseurs prefer cork!
The little things we do today to minimise our impact on the environment will create a more substantial benefit in the future. Implementing ways to drink wine more sustainably, you are already making a difference.