Happy Earth Day to all you wine lovers!
Now, it may be a day away, but we here at French Corner Cellars would like to celebrate Earth Day by spreading the knowledge of wines that are kind to the environment. ‘What is an Earth friendly wine?’ you may ask. Let us provide a brief overview of the various styles of wine agriculture, that produce fruit in an eco-friendly style.
Conventional farming is the most widely used form of agriculture, and the favorite of your everyday high-production labels. Chemicals are used frequently not only on the vines, but also in the soil to prevent and kill weeds, bugs, and diseases. If you find a label in a giant stack for five-or-so dollars, this is almost certainly how it’s grapes are grown. The chemical impact on the environment, coupled with the carbon footprint of the various machinery, is what has given the eco-friendly wine movement its traction in recent years.
‘Respect for the environment’ is the call of the winemaker seeking sustainable agriculture. Around since the early 90’s, sustainable winemaking wasn’t recognized officially until 2002. For the producer, it is a voluntary process without any obligation or control. Vines are chemically treated ONLY if needed, and using the product of least environmental harm. Weeds can be removed with machines and chemicals, but once again, only when absolutely necessary. The process of becoming sustainable comes very close to its organic counterpart, so much so that small estates that don’t have the budget to seek organic status are considered organic but uncertified.
Organically grown grapes are the current benchmark for those with concern about how various industries effect our environment. To be organic, you need to be certified, this includes regular inspection of facilities and processes by an approved body. Converting a field to organic (no chemicals, fungicide, or pesticide’s) takes three years, with the first certified harvest being on the 4th year of non-chemical growth. Products of natural origin are used to treat the vines, and help build its own defenses (organic manures assist with this also). Take note: the ‘organic’ part of the winemaking currently ends with the harvest. Many a winemaker still use chemicals once the grapes are pressed, though Several growers are organizing to certify the organic process in its entirety.
Picture courtesy of Wine Folly
In the 20’s a man named Rudolph Steiner began work on anthroposophy, the wine equivalent is now known as Bio-dynamic (first brought into winemaking by Nicolas Joly during the 80’s), the concept of which is based on the lunar calendar. An offshoot of organic agriculture, bio-dynamic winemakers see the vineyard as its own living entity, and strives to promote the life of the soil for the benefit of the vines and grapes. Instead of addressing any illness, they will instead try to study and correct the conditions that brought them about. The number of vineyards using this style are small, but growing.
Then there is the new kid on the block. Natural Winemaking is a term and style that is still getting its footing in the wine world. For some, it means an organic wine using only indigenous yeasts, for others, no added sulfites (less than 10g per liter). Don’t mistake the use of the word ‘natural’ as ‘organic’. The term ‘natural’ in itself is a misnomer, as human intervention is needed to make wine in the first place. Not a fad necessarily, but time will tell where its true identity lies.
Now, French Corner Cellars doesn’t make wine. But we stand with those that take great care in making wines that leave little impact on our world. With preservation units that use very little energy, we stand in solidarity with those who believe that the struggle to preserve the environment is a 365 day endeavor.