With more people than ever taking steps to lessen their environmental impact in the midst of climate change and global warming, it is no surprise that our conscientious practises are extending to the consumption of eco-friendly beverages as well. But what about when it comes to the complex topic of sustainable wine?
While the nuanced regulations involved could likely fill a book, it all comes down to the farming and vinification practises that winegrowers follow, from composting waste to conserving water, greenhouse gas emissions to maintaining healthy soil. Nowadays, the three most common labels you will find include: ‘sustainable’ (a general term for engaging in green practises); ‘organic’ (certified free from pesticides or fertilisers); and ‘biodynamic’ (the most stringent of the three, involving farming a self-sustaining vineyard as a single ecosystem).
While a number of vineyards have embraced green initiatives in their winemaking practises, for the average consumer, it can be a challenge to shop savvy, short of simply reaching for the nearest bottle stickered with a green label or certification. To shed some light on the topic, we asked our team of expert sommeliers what they look for in sustainable wines, and the vineyards they have discovered that are truly reducing their carbon footprint from grape to glass. Seek out these wines, and sip with a clean conscience.
Arnaud Bardary, Group Head Sommelier, Black Sheep Restaurants
It is good to see how many people are giving importance to sustainability farming nowadays, and I completely agree that the best wines are made from the best fruits.
It’s hard for me to pick just a few and enumerate the practises of each winery, but in general I can easily recommend a number of Greek vineyards for their farming philosophies: Artemis Karamolegos in Santorini, Driopi in Peloponese, Thymiopoulos, Kir-Yianni, Diamantakos in Macedonia, and Idaia in Crete. You can try them at Artemis & Apollo and I invite everyone to rediscover what has made these vineyards famous for decades.
Jean-Baptise Copot, Carbone
The topic of organic and biodynamic wines generally lends itself to a big debate around the table: Is it only a trend? What is really considered a ‘natural’ wine? It’s a really long and interesting topic. For me, I’m always very respectful of any winemaker trying to make their wine as ‘clean’ as possible. It’s not easy but that’s what makes it so exciting: Ask a chef to stop cooking with salt and it’s going to take him a lot of time to adjust his recipes.
If I had to pick one of my latest discoveries, it would be the wines of Marco De Bartoli, based on the island of Sicily. His entire range is outstanding! It has been so difficult for us to pick just a few of them for Carbone—we wanted to take them all. If you would like to discover the art of biodynamic winemaking, try his Grappoli Del Grillo: It is a wine that exudes emotion, a true expression of terroir that will have you dreaming of Sicily.
Constanza Cabello, Osteria Marzia
Tasca d’Almerita. They cultivate grapes in the vineyards of five different estates in Sicily: Regaleali, Capofaro, Tascante, Whitaker and Sallier de La Tour. Each estate has its unique soil characteristics. Tasca is the first Italian agricultural company to have both certifications from SOStain and VIVA, which encourages sustainability in all aspects of Italian farming and winemaking. This year, they received the “Robert Parker Green Emblem” for agricultural and oenological practices dedicated to long-term environmental protection and the preservation of biodiversity.
I would recommend the Tasca d’Almerita, Regaleali Bianco 2020, a Sicilian white wine that’s a blend of three local vineyards, cultivated on the high hills with four grape varieties: Inzolia, Grecanico, Catarratto, and a small addition of Chardonnay. The wine is cool-fermented in stainless steel. The wine shows crisp acidity and a medium body on the palate, with green apple, pear, lime and mineral notes on the finish.
Alex Wai, Buenos Aires Polo Club
Modern winemaking is often lacking in the working knowledge that our forebears acquired through observation over thousands of years. Biodynamics is a method employed for the renewal of agriculture that is based on the principles of anthroposophy: the view that a farm is an enclosed microcosm containing a variety of plants and animals, and an agricultural landscape, too, is a closed system involving the soil, plants and nature.
I am a big fan of Alois Lageder estate; they’ve been producing wines biodynamically since the 1990s. According to the 6th-generation winemaker Clemens Lageder, it’s all about understanding nature in the vineyard, and making full use of its potential by creating a closed farm organism. The winery also strives for zero-carbon production, using solar panels, natural temperature controls, and banning plastic and foil from their bottling process. Founder Alois Lageder said, “Nature is much more powerful than we are. Our objective as wine growers is to maintain and develop the complex systems of nature.”
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