All About Green Wines - Sustainable, Natural, Organic and Biodynamic Wine
When it comes to wines labeled Organic, Natural, Bio-Dynamic or Sustainable, there is as much confusion as there is interest. Over the past couple of years the PJ Wine team has been exploring, hunting, and bringing home the best of the best in these categories. Like a great travelogue, these wines inspire, and we are extremely excited to share our adventures and discoveries with you. We feel confident that we have simplified the terminology and clarified the confusion often surrounding these categories. Armed with this arsenal of information on green wine, we encourage you to do a bit of exploring of your own.
Please check out our selection of green wine below. While this is not a complete list of our inventory, all are hand picked by our wine team. Stay tuned, as we intend to rotate this list frequently as we discover more great wines.
The wines in this selection are fully certified by a government agency (see logos to the right). What this means is that both the grapes and the winemaking practices have to adhere to the guidelines each organization has deemed to be “organic”. In short this means no pesticides or herbicides and limited sulfur use. While there are many winemakers practicing strict organic principles, many choose not to bother with the labeling process due to expense or political/philosophical arguments against government regulation. Every wine we put in the “organic” category has the official stamp.
The so called "Natural Wines" (a term that ruffles a lot of feathers, but not ours) is more of a style or a movement than an organized system of farming or winemaking. In short, because to do otherwise would be to write a book—which there are now many (most notably by writers such as Alice Feiring and Jamie Goode)—“Natural Wines” are the result of not only chemical free farming, but minimal intervention as well. That often means little or no sulfur (the gas, not to be confused with sulfites which exist naturally in ALL wines), only indigenous yeasts, and neutral vessels (i.e. no new oak). These wines are typically characterized by more pronounced yeasty aromas and "barnyard" notes along with sometimes having petillant texture as you would experience with Lambic beers (either from naturally occurring c02, or because they’ve added a dash of it in place of sulfur (or because the wine is unstable, something that can happen when you don’t use sulfur, and has gone through a secondary fermentation). Think of these wines as funky and fun. They’re the punk rock wines of the wine world, that also happen to go great with food!
While this sub-category of green wine is the largest in the group, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of wines that are practicing or applying for bio-dynamic/organic certification, it is also the most loosely defined. We can best describe these wines as ones that are made with grapes that are grown using methods that improve, or at the very least, don't harm the local ecosystem. This holistic approach to farming is mainly concerned with environmental health, but social and economic factors are often considered. These are often under the radar, boutique wineries that either eschew labels or simply do not want to pay for them. In short, these are wines that could be certified, but choose not to (or are simply waiting for the paperwork to process, something akin to DMV of wine).
The most complex, and least understood, of all of our sub-categories... by a long shot. We are completely fascinated with this wine making and grape-growing method, if one can even consider it a "method" at all. The biodynamic practice of farming grapes and crafting wine is based on the ideology of Rudolf Steiner and brought to the public forum by Nicolas Joly. They both believe that farming can be attuned to the spiritual forces of the cosmos. This might mean linking sowing and harvesting to the phases of the moon or the positions of the planets. It also might mean burying manure in a cow's horn or using a "tea" of seaweed and water as sunscreen for the vines. Biodynamic wine-makers are as hands-off as possible and give nature hold over the reigns. The results are wild, unpredictable, and pure. This is what many believe to be the truest expression of wine period, and the evidence for this is that more and more high-end producers the world over have become converts. There is a certain magic to the resultant wine that is hard explain. We certainly believe these wines, while utilizing ancient methodologies, offer some of the most unexpected and rewarding flavors of any wines being made today.