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Whether white or red, wines turning 'green'

By Lorri Hambuchen

This article was published August 6, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

There are many references to going green these days. And as more wineries join the movement, we're seeing an increase in "green" terminology on bottle labels, which can be somewhat confusing. I shuffled through some of the lingo hoping to ease the confusion.

• "Organic" is one of the few truly regulated terms when it comes to food and beverage production. However, regulation doesn't mean this term isn't wrought with confusion. There are organic wines, and there are wines made with organic grapes. Different regulations apply to each.

Organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering. Before a wine can be sold as organic, the grower of the grapes and their wine-making process must be certified. Other agriculture ingredients in the wine, such as yeast, must also be certified organic. Wines made from certified organically grown grapes cannot be labeled "organic" if sulfites were added in the winemaking process. (Some sulfites occur naturally. Some sulfites are added to stop the risk of bacteria occurring after the wine is bottled.)

Wines labeled as "made with organic grapes" must contain 100 percent organic grapes, but other ingredients such as yeast do not have to be organic, and sulfites (up to 100 parts per million) can be added.

• "Biodynamic" is a term used for describing an ecological, ethical and spiritual approach to vineyard farming. The concept was developed by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. This technique considers the overall universal flow of energy. Biodynamic growers treat the vineyards as unified organisms with animals, plants and all other environmental influences. The basic root is in the belief of an intimately connected cycle of life with the grapes and their environment.

• "Carbon footprint" is another buzzphrase in the green glossary. It is the impact of human activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. For the most part vineyards are not big greenhouse gas producers, but a smaller footprint is always better, so many growers are continually evaluating their impact.

Some vineyard operations, such as using tractors, produce greenhouse gases. Many growers are opting to use alternate tractor rows for tilling the vineyards, which cuts tractor time. Others use techniques such as cultivated tractor rows seeded with select cover crops to aid the rebuilding of soils and increase organic matter. Smaller producers have even abandoned the tractor altogether and returned to the old-fashioned alternative for weed control: a hoe and shovel.

• "Carbon sink" may be one of the newer green terms. Many vineyards around the world are near forests and oceans that are naturally absorbing carbon dioxide, a basic greenhouse gas. These resources are called "carbon sinks." Vineyards are beginning to identify their role in becoming more aware by nurturing and expanding the resources around the grape growing. The idea: "Smaller footprints, bigger sinks."


2012 Simply Naked Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $11 retail)

2012 Stellar Organics Merlot, South Africa (about $12 retail)


2012 Hall Vineyards Merlot, California (about $26 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, or email:

Food on 08/06/2014

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