Sustainable Wine Choices

By Kathleen Anderson on Aug 05, 2015 at 01:17 PM in For Labs and Modalities

Winemakers use the french word terrior, literally meaning “land,” as a shorthand description of a region’s wine characteristics which are based on the combination of soil and climate of an area. Each region, also known as an appellation, is known to best produce wine from grapes that thrive in that terrior.

In 1970, organic wine pioneer Richard Sanford, with a love for pinot noir, a degree in geology, and a thermometer, drove through the Santa Rita Hills until he found just the right terrior  compatible with the pinot grapes he planned to grow. Since that time, he and his wife, Thekla, have founded 3 wineries, and presently own Alma Rosa in Buellton, California.

The first wine production has been traced to 8,000 BC, but sophisticated viticulture practices, including the recognition of appellations, were developed during the Roman Empire.

Pliny the Elder wrote “In vino veritas.” In wine is the truth. Throughout history, beginning with Hippocrates himself, wine has been associated with well being: as a digestive aid, a disinfectant, a relaxant, and for pain relief. Recent medical research shows that wine might promote longevity due to its heart healthy qualities. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help to protect the lining of the blood vessels in the heart. One polyphenol called Resveratrol reduces inflammation and blood clotting.

It makes sense that the health benefits of wine will be even more valuable without the added pesticides that are normally sprayed on growing grape vines.

A love of wine and a desire to drink it in its most elevated form has inspired vintners and customers to take the quality of organic wines more seriously.   Local online organic wine club Eco Vine Wines has seen a growth in fine organic wineries in the last ten years,now offering a selection from 50 wineries. And Sustainable Vines offers tours of 9 sustainable wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Although vineyards’ carbon footprint is most impressive when wines are produced and consumed in the the same terrior, our local wineries are receiving interest from across the Pacific. Japan is experiencing an organic restaurant  movement and is consulting with Casa Barranca in Ojai, California.

Organic wines today fall into specific categories:
Wine made from organic grapes: wines containing 70% organic grapes.
Certified organic wine: These wines are made from 100% organic grapes.
Biodynamic wine: Taking organic farming to another holistic level, this method was originated by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920’s and brought to our area in the 1970’s. See my 8/26/11 column ( about Shepherd Farms.
Sustainable:  Alma Rosa Winery uses a cork-free technology in bottling their award winning wines. (Traditional wine corks are trash, ending up in landfills.). Casa Barranca is solar powered and uses water from an artesian spring.
Sulfite-free: For those of us sensitive to sulfites, sulfite-free wines are a real pleasure, like drinking vino in Italy. Casa Barranca produces Arts and Crafts Red and an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon that are sulfite free. (approximately $20 each)
Vegan: For a product made from grapes, it is shocking to consider that not all wine is vegetarian or vegan. While some wine today is allowed to keep the sediment, most wines go through a “fining” process to help the appearance and balance of the wine.
I hope you are sitting down for this fact but most wineries use animal parts and/or dairy during the fining process: Animal gelatin from bones, animal blood, isinglass from sturgeon bladders, milk, cheese, and/or egg whites. If you are vegan or vegetarian, or you have a sensitivity to dairy or fish, check with the winery to determine what agent was used in the fining process. Vegan wines use bentonite clay in the fining process.
Gluten-free: Most wine is considered to be gluten-free, but check with the winery directly.

Sign up for updates!

Sign Up Now