The eco wine trade has truly flourished over the last few years. A rise in consumer interest and a new generation of talented and conscientious wine makers has resulted in better wines which are kinder to the environment, contain fewer chemicals, and some say even provide less powerful hangovers.
Wine can be a tough one when it comes to trying to live sustainably. But just as we consider ethical and environmental issues when buying food or clothing, so the same factors are now coming into play for wine lovers.
When it comes to the environment, the wine industry does have some serious problems – chemicals including herbicides and fertilisers, a host of non-degradable materials, and harmful fuels have become integral to the cultivation, packaging and transportation of wine. Some experts argue that a single bottle of conventionally produced wine may contain up to 250 different types of chemicals. The eco wine producers of the world tackle this problem head on by taking wine production back to basics and removing the use of chemicals on their vineyards.
However, eco wine can be rather complicated and one of the biggest reasons for this is labels – There are now over 400 eco labels in use around the globe, and this is a number that is rising each year. This means that consumers are being asked to make increasingly difficult decisions on what to buy. Thankfully Salt has done the hard work for you by providing you with a foolproof list of all the labels that you need to know about when buying eco wine:
Natural Wine – Natural winemakers process their wine with as little human intervention as possible. There are no additives such as sugar, sulphites and acidifiers added to the process and they don’t use any form of technological manipulation like spinning cones to remove alcohol and micro-oxygenation to accelerate the aging process. Things are quite simply left to nature.
Organic Wine – As the name suggests, organic wines must contain 100 per cent organically produced ingredients. They must also have been processed using only organically-produced additives. The big difference with 100 per cent organic wines is that winemakers cannot introduce added sulphites to their wines.
Sulphite-Free Wines – Sorry, but there is no such thing as a 100 per cent sulphite-free wine as sulphites develop naturally as a by-product of fermentation. However so-called sulphite-free winemakers do not add additional sulphites during the winemaking process. These wines are 100 per cent organic from start to finish and winemakers only use naturally occurring sulphites like sulphur dioxide, which is a natural antimicrobial.
Vegan Wine – It may be surprising but not all wine is vegan or even vegetarian. This is mainly because winemakers often use animal products during the winemaking process which are called ‘fining agents’ – this is often to remove solid impurities like grape skins or to adjust the wine’s tannin levels, resulting in a clearer, brighter and better-tasting wine. Vegan wine producers use fining agents that are 100 per cent animal-friendly.
Biodynamic Wine – When you buy a wine that is labelled as biodynamic you’re not only guaranteed a taste of organic grapes, but also a vineyard that takes sustainability well beyond shunning pesticides and other chemicals. Biodynamic winemakers take their vineyards right back to nature’s basics and use only holistic agricultural methods that treat the natural landscape like a living organism, rather than a wine producing factory.
Fair Trade Wine – Fair Trade labelled wines guarantee the same levels of good business practices as you would expect from Fair Trade coffee and chocolate. In order to achieve the certification, all wine grapes are grown sustainably, without the use of pesticides. What separates the Fair Trade certification is that vineyards must also comply with good labour practices, paying workers fairly and providing a workplace that is free from any forced or child labour. As it stands, only wine from estates and small farmer cooperatives in Argentina, Chile and South Africa can receive Fair Trade certification.
Carbon-neutral Wine – Carbon-neutral wine producers have ditched the gas-guzzling farm equipment used by the larger vineyards in favour of a more environmentally-friendly approach. This means cleaning up their own operations that release greenhouse gases, and also purchasing carbon credits to offset the emissions they couldn’t avoid.
Make sure you join us next week for Salt’s top five Eco wines.
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