Moldova often considered a very obscure wine region, yet it is on the forefront of sustainability. Image courtesy Calin Stan / iStock.
Canary Islands, Lanzarote, Spain. Image courtesy Rossella Apostoli / iStock.
If you’re going to sip, why not sip sustainable? You certainly won’t be alone in your eco-drinking endeavors.
With sustainability on the rise, it’s no surprise that wine drinkers are willing to pay more for sustainable wine according to a survey by Forbes. But the differences between sustainable, natural, organic and biodynamic winemaking practices (and wine) can definitely be confusing for drinkers. But you shouldn’t feel intimidated. Winetraveler has cleared up any confusion regarding the terms, which aren’t exactly interchangeable:
The Differences Between Biodynamic, Sustainable, Organic and Natural Wine
Biodynamic: The biodynamic winemaking process is more spiritual, delving deep into each vineyard’s specific ecology. For example, a biodynamic winery may plant or pick grapes during specific lunar cycles or use methods such as adding herb-infused compost to vineyards.
Sustainable: This style of winemaking is mostly organic. Sustainable wineries likely use a number of organic and eco-friendly processes such as eco-farming, but may not be certified as organic. But, when wineries use sustainable wine-making methods, there are other certifications a winery can get. Farming of this nature is aimed at having as little human impact on the environment as possible.
Organic: Organic wines should hold certificates proving they contain 100% organically grown ingredients. If not, it’s probably not a fully organic wine.
Natural: Natural wines are typically made without adding additional chemicals or ingredients — things like sulfur, sugar, and acid.
If you’d like to get a better sense of what sustainable wine is all about, be sure to visit or try wine from a sustainable winery, or better yet, a sustainable wine region. These are areas where a number of winemakers/wineries are turning to more sustainable practices. In honor of Earth Day, here are 8 sustainable wine regions to visit and taste around the world.
While the eastern European country of Moldova may seem obscure, Moldova is advanced when it comes to winemaking. The country is investigating how to make its wines more sustainable by opening experimental plots within three of its wine regions (Codru, Valul lui Traian and Stefan Voda) to test how grapes react to soil, water and temperature change.
After hosting the massive Climate Change Leadership Porto: Solutions for the Wine Industry event in 2019, it’s clear Porto is on the forefront of sustainability. Many wineries within the region adhere to eco-friendly practices: reusing wastewater, using alternative fertilization methods and implementing cork waste management systems.
McLaren Vale, Australia
The Australian Wine Research Institute has recently set up the Sustainable Wine Growing Organization in the McLaren Vale region. Nearby wineries are following many of the association’s best practices, including using sustainable pest, disease, water and waste management methods as well as hiring local workers and supporting local businesses.
Napa Valley, California, USA
Several wineries in Napa are certified by Napa Green, one of the most prominent sustainability programs in the region. Initiatives include restoring the Napa River watershed, reducing waste, saving energy/water and supporting the local community. A number of the region’s wineries also hold LEED certification, indicating that the winery is operated in an ecological manner.
Canary Islands, Spain
The Canary Islands are one of the most sustainable island archipelagos in the world. One of its smallest islands, El Hierro, runs almost entirely on sustainable energy. The islands are home to wineries that seamlessly interact with nature, using the volcanic terrain to protect their grapevines from wind and dryness.
Much of France is moving towards sustainable winemaking. For example, winemakers in the Beaujolais region are using more sustainable carbonic maceration practices to conquer the granitic terroir. Champagne is one of the most advanced regions when it comes to sustainability. Using a carbon plan put together back in 2003, the area has reduced its emissions by about 20% in the past few years. Future plans show how the region aims to use zero herbicide products by 2025.
Thanks to this South American country’s mostly hot, arid climate, vineyards in Chile don’t suffer from many diseases or pests, allowing grapes to grow without the need for harmful pesticides. According to the Sustainability Code of the Chilean Wine, over 75% of Chilean wine producers are certified as sustainable. Eco-friendly wine practices aren’t novel in Chile, either. For hundreds of years, winemakers have adapted naturally to more sustainable methods that better suit the country’s environment.
Western Cape, South Africa
Many wineries in the Western Cape region (such as Franschhoek and Stellenbosch) are dedicated to sustainable winemaking and are part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, which helps vineyards preserve endangered vegetation in the Cape lowlands. These wineries have adopted more sustainable practices such as using recycled glass for bottling and setting aside part of their land for conservation.