Wine consumption is on the rise and Americans seem to be doing most of the drinking, with the United States alone consuming 13 percent of the world’s wine. The USA tops the list of countries with the highest consumption of vino, followed by France, Italy, and Germany. It’s no wonder more and more people are reaching for a glass of red these days considering wine has plenty of health benefits that can’t be found in a bottle of beer, but with a higher consumption comes the responsibility of sustainability. Can wine really be good for our health and for the planet?
Cheers To Your Health
When it comes to reaping the best health benefits from a glass of Merlot or Malbec, most of us already know to look for an organic choice. These days, most bottles will have an organic certification printed directly on the bottle. The same holds true for wine in new and alternative packaging such as individual boxes, cans, and cartons. However, biodynamic and sustainability certifications are equally important to take notice of.
To ensure you are drinking the purest wine available and not consuming any potentially toxic chemicals, pesticides, or additives, more and more vineyards are striving to become not just organic but also biodynamic. This means using holistic farming methods and creating a farming ecosystem that is self-sustaining. Only natural composts and soils are permitted, and often animals also occupy the land, contributing natural fertilizer. Not only does this ensure an organic grape, but it also provides for an ethically made glass of wine without any cost to the land it was produced from.
There are currently over 700 producers of biodynamic wine and many claim that their reds and whites are not only healthier but also have better taste profiles than their pesticide-using counterparts. Gérard Bertrand, a French winemaker who owns and operates a vineyard first started using the biodynamic method in 2002 and never looked back. He believes that making wine in harmony with nature produces a superior product.
“We need to move from a paradigm of fear to a paradigm of love … We need to be in harmony,” Bertrand believes, for the good of ourselves and for the good of great wine. “The biodynamic wine was more aromatic and more balanced, with better acidity. That’s why we continued,” he said.
Here’s To The Environment
Aside from biodynamics, there are several other sustainability certifications that vineyards can achieve. Climate change is a major topic of discussion these days, so choosing a bottle of wine with a sustainability certification has become increasingly popular. These certifications look at a variety of environmental concerns, such as crop diversity, energy use, winery waste, and even how rivers and lakes are protected from farming run-off. Some standards of sustainability even consider social equity and safe working conditions for vineyard and winery employees.
Water management has become a major issue when it comes to wine sustainability. California, with more than 3000 wineries, has seen some of the worst droughts on record within the last ten years. Farming, which includes vineyards, uses up 80 percent of the state’s human water use. Therefore, repeated water restrictions during times of drought have led many wine producers to seek alternatives to wasteful irrigation.
Dry Wines From Dry Farms
Many have turned to a technique called dry farming, which has actually been in practice in many of Europe’s sunnier wine producing countries, such as Spain and Greece, for centuries. Grape vines are able to adapt to dryer conditions by growing their roots deeper into the soil in search of water. Irrigation merely keeps the roots near the surface. Grape vines have shown little stress when forced to grow deeper to reach moisture, and because they have adapted to dry farming, are not affected by water restrictions put in place during drought emergencies.
Plenty of winemakers are also taking steps to preserve the soil as well as water. Precious topsoil is in limited supply, so many vineyards are also taking a no-till approach when it comes to tending their fields. Allowing other plants, such as certain grains and veggies that crowd out weeds, to grow in harmony with the vines helps prevent soil erosion, maintains moisture in the earth, and creates nutrient and microbial biodiversity. This concept allows for farmers to grow grape vines in fewer inches of required topsoil, transforming previously undesirable plots of land into resilient, fertile gardening earth.
The next time you’re perusing the wine aisle of the grocery store unsure of which type to buy, perhaps have a peek at the label to see whether or not your potential choices have sustainability certifications. A glass of wine is a great stress reliever and may have plenty of health benefits, too. However, a sustainably produced wine is both great for your health and for the planet.