Toast Mother Earth this week with natural wine, one of the most popular ecologically-friendly beverages today.
There is actually no set “natural wine” accreditation or definition. However, many winegrowers nurture biodiversity while embracing nature. They use organic, sustainable, and/or biodynamic tools in the vineyard and practice low intervention in the winery.
Sustainable wine growing features the use of cover crops, bird boxes, and composting to create a self-sustaining environment. Organic vintners follow these practices and don’t use chemicals in the vineyards or sulfites during wine making. Biodynamic growers create an ecosystem that allows vines to thrive while benefiting all he other inhabits of the land. (Note: a few selections were sent for editorial consideration.)
Provence’s Mas de la Dame is organic under “Qualité France.” Their gastronomic Rosé is made richer than many Provençal Rosés by blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre with Grenache and Syrah. $17.Central Market.
Languedoc environmentalist Didier Barral of Léon Barral, elevates the model of green farming. He believes any disruption in the vineyard will harm the land’s natural ecology. He farms without machinery, chemicals, pesticides, or anything that will disrupt the harmony of the vineyard to creates wines with distinct character.
Basket-vines made in the volcanic soils on Santorini have traditionally been farmed sustainably. The dry, sandy soils have always been predominantly phylloxera free. This fact paves the way for clean farming techniques for their Assyrtiko wines. My favorites include Sigalas, Gaia, and Gavalas.
California carries the Certified Organic Farming (CCOF) designation. Caspar Estate has made the organic philosophy their backbone. Biodiversity throughout the estate is created by growing olive trees for oil and cultivating wildflower honey from estate beehives. Wild yeast fermented Caspar Cabernet Sauvignon layers Rutherford earthiness with black fruit. The wine, olive oil, and honey are available here.
In 2008, Ehler’s Estate became CCOF when they made terroir-driven, St. Helena wines. Though known for their Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) and Sauvignon Blanc ($32), their Cabernet Franc Rosé ($36) is a springtime favorite. Available here.
Joseph Phelps Phelps Foundation advances the winery’s sustainability efforts. In addition to clean farming, they focus on their surrounding Napa community. They donate land for farm-worker housing and recently gifted a 480-acre conservation easement to the Land Trust of Napa County. Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon highlights the warm, dry vintage with ripe cherry and dried fig. $70. Get it at Total Wine.
Hall Wines, owned by Dallasites Kathryn and Craig Hall, earned CCOF in 2010. It was the first California winery to be distinguished as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified facility in 2009. Both accreditations make Hall the ideal place for stellar Cabernet Sauvignon. Try their Coeur layered with rich black fruit. $70. Available here.
Benziger Family Winery is a leader in green farming. They utilize biodynamic, sustainable, and organic methods at their estate vineyards and only buy fruit from others who use the same techniques. The family believes healthy growing practices create regionally distinct wines. Their Tribute was the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic Sonoma County wine. $80. Spec’s.
Dozens of additional wineries focus on sustainability. Many use solar technology to reduce their carbon footprint. Several include Stoller, Cline, Domaine Carneros, Raymond, Flora Springs, J Lohr, and Goldeneye. For some, using solar technology offsets 250,000 pounds of Co2 annually. That translates into planting 40,000 trees. Save the earth, indeed!