How is your favorite wine made? What exactly is organic wine?
Wine labels today are often as intriguing and beautiful as what you find in the bottle but the labels’ semantics can get cloudy, to say the least. Eco-friendly, sustainable, vegan, green certified…how do these buzzwords translate to what’s in your glass?
Here is simple guide for decoding that label confusion:
- Organic – This refers to wine that has 95% organically grown ingredients and is certified by the USDA.. No sulfites (preservatives) have been added, however naturally occurring sulfites may be present.
- 100% Organic – This is wine that has been monitored throughout its entire production process guaranteeing all ingredients are chemical free and is certified as such. Sulfites have not been added, though it also may contain naturally occurring sulfites.
- Made with Organic Grapes or Organic Ingredients – Refers to wine that is made of 70% organic ingredients, meaning chemicals/pesticides may be present. Sulfites can be added for preserving, but it may not beyond 100 parts per million. This wine is not certified by the USDA as organic.
- Biodynamic – Arguably the most progressive of the practices, this wine is 100% organic and it has been developed with a total balance method of a vineyard’s farming practices. It comes from a self-sustaining vineyard ecosystem that ultimately translates into a full and balanced end product. Biodynamic vineyards carefully build soil fertility and manage pests by encouraging biodiversity among crops, livestock and wildlife and by using on-site produced outputs like composted animal manures, plants and minerals. They also pay acute attention to water and soil resources. Techniques involve harvesting during evening hours and when gravitational pulls indicate the prime fruit ripeness. Unlike organic farming, which avoids synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides and substitutes them with naturally-derived products, biodynamic farming goes beyond that; it is agriculturally holistic and demands the farm be at what some interpret to be a spiritual level with the crops. The certification is rigorous and demanding, through Demeter Certification.
- Vegan – Wine made entirely without any animal products involved, which are often be used for filtration in the wine making process to remove solids. Although they are typically filtered out of the wine prior to bottling, the use of these animal ingredients can make many wines unsuitable for vegans. The most common animal ingredients used in making wine are: isinglass: very pure form of gelatin from sturgeon fish bladders, gelatin: extract from boiled cow’s or pig’s hooves and sinew, albumin: egg whites, and caseins: protein from milk.
- SIP Certified Sustainable – SIP Certified sustainably farmed vineyards and wines speak to the farmer’s commitment to protecting both natural and human resources. The comprehensive rules for SIP Certification (known as Standards) address many interrelated elements of the whole farm: the worker, soil fertility, cover crops, wildlife, native plants, irrigation, and more. The SIP Certified seal assures that the farmer has completed an extensive auditing process verifying that the fruit was grown with respect for the land and the wine was made with SIP Certified fruit.
A Toast to the Commitment in Santa Ynez Valley
In the spirit of Eco-friendly, forward thinking, the Santa Ynez Valley manifests its commitment to our planet with world-class, environmentally-conscious wine making. Take a peek at how these local wineries do their part:
Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards boasts 40 years of sustainable wine growing history. With over 100 acres of certified organic vineyards, they practice and promote organic farming, sustainable agriculture, ecologically-responsible packaging and business practices, and green building. In addition, Alma Rosa supports earth-friendly causes such as the reintroduction of peregrine falcons to the Santa Ynez Valley, as their vineyards provides refuge for endangered birds and other wildlife.
Ampelos Cellars is proud to be one of the first US vineyards certified SIP- sustainability in practice, organic and biodynamic. Their vineyard practices include: 100% solar power, 100% estate-based composting, and animal-based insect control and fertilizing programs.
For a fascinating peek into their biodynamics click here. In their commitment to our environment, they have eliminated purchasing disposable plastic bottled water for employees and visitors and supplemented with reusable containers, implemented the use of CarbonNeutral® accredited wine barrels from Seguin Moreau, as well as usage of natural corks and100% recycled newspaper pulp in shipping box inserts.
Beckmen Vineyards began farming Purisima Mountain Vineyard 100% biodynamically in 2006 and completed the rigorous biodynamic certification process in 2008, in addition to being certified organic.
Cimarone Estate Wine owners Roger and Priscilla Higgins are dedicated to the philosophy of sustainable farming and pay careful attention to addressing soil erosion and incorporating biodegradable and natural materials for pest and mildew management of their vineyard.
Coquelicot Estate Winery implemented sustainable and organic farming protocols in 2007 with the goal of obtaining organic certification in 2010. Their 58 acre vineyard practices include management of healthy and balanced soil, water conservation, composting, natural critter and weed management, and renewable resource usage and cover crops.
Demetria Estate Winery practices organic farming methods and is one of the first practitioners of biodynamics in Santa Barbara County, starting back in 2005.
Dragonette Cellars collaborates with sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards and focuses on ‘minimalist wine-making’.
Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery are farmed organically.
Stolpman Vineyards promotes both organic farming and bio-diversity with over 50 acres of fallow space, an organic vegetable farm, olive trees, owl habitats and the use of varying cover crops every year. Their vineyards also proudly implement dry farming with their 152 producing acres, which translates into naturally yielded fewer grapes, allowing the vines to ripen with concentrated, vibrant, undiluted and balanced grape clusters. The Stolpman tasting room is also planing to introduce a system that will allow people to bring in bottles and growlers for refills making for a smaller environmental impact.
Presidio Winery & Vineyard uses organic and biodynamic methods of grape cultivation.
Sunstone Winery has been committed to growing wine grapes without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fungicides since the initial planting in 1990. Their 28-acre estate vineyard certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F.)
Verdad Wines hail from the organically farmed Ibarra-Young Vineyard and the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard which is Demeter certified organic. The wines are produced at the Clendenen Lindquist Winery in Santa Maria, home to Qupe Wine Cellars and Au Bon Climat Winery.
Celebrate Earth Day in the Santa Ynez Valley with a toast to our planet! Make it a Green Getaway and book your stay at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, the first certified green hotel in Santa Barbara County. The hotel’s Eco-friendly practices include:
- energy efficiency
- water conservation
- introduction of bulk soap and shampoo dispensers in guest rooms to reduce plastic bottle waste
- upgraded lighting throughout the hotel and controls on vending and ice machines to reduce energy use
- landscaping with native plant material
- recycling programs throughout the hotel, including kitchens
- employee ride sharing with a monthly raffle for participating staff.
Pair your stay with a first-hand experience of the environmentally mindful wineries! Check out the one-of-a-kind Sustainable Vine Wine Tour which includes tastings at 3 locations, a made-to-order gourmet organic picnic lunch and door-to-door transportation. A friendly and knowledgeable guide will take you beyond the tasting room and venture into the vineyards! Then relax and rejuvenate at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, with modern amenities, natural beauty and a wonderfully attentive staff.