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Sustainable Wine: What the Buzz is All About

Sustainable Wine: What the Buzz is All About

Carrie Strong | Chef's Blade

There are many eco-friendly buzz words flashing in the world of wine and viticulture: green, organic, biodynamic, and sustainable. Each time one of these words is tossed out or put on a label, it creates a lengthy debate as to which method is actually better to sustain the earth for generations to come. What is really behind all of this talk?

Sustainable agriculture attempts to minimize environmental impacts and ensure economic viability and a safe, healthy workplace through the use of environmentally and economically sound production practices. While it cannot technically be called organic, sustainable viticulture addresses how all of the potential production practices impact the environmental, economic, and social outcomes on the farm and how best to maximize the benefits associated with these outcomes through sound growing practices. Sustainable winemaking lacks national regulations, certifications, and labeling allowances for the winery and vineyards. Sustainable viticulture is maintained purely through the integrity of each winery and/or vineyard management team.

Tim and Diane Moore, owners and winemakers at Imagine Moore winery in the Finger Lakes region, define sustainability as a lifestyle as opposed to a way to standardize wine or viticulture. They live by, encourage and support local farms that adhere to the standards of VineBalance, New York’s Sustainable Viticulture program. According to the site, the VineBalance curriculum is “designed to both document sustainable grape growing practices already in place and promote sustainable practices throughout the industry…is primarily an educational tool … and provides a baseline for potential modifications detailed in an action plan drawn up after completing the workbook.” This program is not only comprehensive but extremely intense in vineyard actualization. Still there are no regulatory governing bodies to ensure proper procedures.

Imagine Moore winery uses VineBalance standards as a resource for constant improvement in their vineyard. They believe that wines made from sustainable agriculture involve practices that protect the environment, particularly the water and soil, use reclaimed/recycled materials wherever possible, and create and use energy efficient procedures. They strive to protect the health of workers, neighbors, and consumers, seek to build a community and use profits to support local and regional efforts that give back to society. Incidentally, Tim served on the board with the Cornell Cooperative Extension that helped to write the VineBalance grower self-assessment workbook.