Drinking Sustainably

What’s that in your wine glass?

Do you know as much about what you drink as you do about what you eat?  Many foodies consider themselves to be connoisseurs of wine, though what they are swirling contains additives that they would never find acceptable in their food.  If you don’t know your wine maker then you don’t know what is in your wine, because currently there are no ingredients labeling requirements in the industry.

As the practices of industrial wine producers come to light, awareness is growing about wine that is produced sustainably, organically, and bio-dynamically.  Winemakers who embrace the art of viticulture vs. the technology are still in the minority, but there are many good choices if you either align yourself with a wise sommelier like Chris Woodrow, the Vinmaster, or do a little research.

Winemaker Tony Coturri

In a culture that values consistent product, bio-dynamically produced wines are anything but.  Because chemical inputs are shunned, they vary greatly from vintage to vintage.  During his recent trip to Charlotte I had the opportunity to share a front porch visit with Tony Coturri to hear more firsthand about his legendary wine making.  His wines have but one ingredient:  grapes.  Fermented with natural yeast. A novel concept?  It shouldn’t be but it is the exception rather than the norm.

In North Carolina there are many wineries farming grapes and doing so with great success.  The climate here makes dealing with rot a challenge, but several wineries have sustainable operations, including McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks and Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery. Owl’s Eye and RagApple Lassie are also very good choices.  Sustainability in wine making can mean lots of different things, including considerate water use and packaging, or using solar energy.  But at the end of the day, what is in the bottle matters most.

Sipping wine is such a civilized thing to do.  It’s important to make choices that protect the environment too.  I’ll drink to that.

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5 Comments

Filed under Food, Sustainable Food

5 responses to “Drinking Sustainably

  1. This is important and often overlooked. I’m proud to share a place at the WFAEats table with you, Lynn.

  2. Steve Little

    This report is incomplete. It begins with claims of unacceptable additives in wine but provides nothing to back it up. What are the additives? How prevalent? Is there any way to learn what’s been added?

    • Lynn Caldwell

      Hi Steve,

      There is a ton of information available about what chemicals can be involved in the wine making process – way more than I could ever go into here. There are chemical inputs used in the vineyard, chemicals used to adjust flavors and to retard spoilage, and even chemicals used to clean the storage containers and equipment. The most common chemical additives according to Chris Woodrow of Vin Master are Ferrous Cyanate, Sulfer Dioxide, Bentonite, Isinglass, and a variety of enzymes that help yeast add flavor to wines. But there are numerous other chemicals that can are are used in wine production. Unless you contact the wine maker and specifically ask what they use in their processes there is no way to know because there are no labeling requirements.

      Glad to know that someone is reading the blog! Thanks for your questions.

      Lynn

  3. Catherine Le Roux

    I agree with Steve, where is the rest of the story? I was expecting to learn something, but the article doesn’t deliver the answers to the questions that were planted in our minds. I have noticed that the majority of California red wines and some Australian red wines give me an headache while it never happens with French, Italian, Spanish, Chilean or South African wines. I have read that sulfates do not trigger headaches, so what else could? Any idea?

    • Lynn Caldwell

      Hi Catherine,

      The rest of the story is very, very long and involved. My hope is that people will start to ask more questions of our wine makers and producers, and will be able to make more educated choices. There are many reliable sources for information, and I find Chris Woodrow of Vin Master to be a very reputable local resource for information and pointers to good wine choices.

      There are many things you could be allergic to in wines – the additives used to help the yeast along, Sodium Metabisulphite, Potassium Sorbate, Potassium Metabisulphite, Campden, certian tannins… it could be anything. I don’t know what is common to the wines you’ve tried, but I’m glad you’ve found some reds that don’t give you headaches because I couldn’t imgagine life without red wine!

      Please hear that I’ve not spent years researching and studying the winemaking process – I’m getting an education along with other foodies and people who are passionate about a greener and more ecological lifestyle. I want to help consumers make considerate choices, and I love dialogue!

      Thanks for sharing the journey with me,
      Lynn

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