Sales of so-called ‚€œgreen‚€ wines
increased 12.1 percent over the past year, nearly four times the growth
rate of wine sales in general, according to a new Nielsen Company report
released last week at the ‚€œGreen Wine Summit‚€ in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The survey, reported by WineBusiness.com,
also found that consumers are confused about what makes a wine
‚€œsustainable,‚€ ‚€œorganic,‚€ or ‚€œbiodynamic.‚€ This confusion
will only grow as these terms are used indiscriminately as marketing
tools without set standards or definitions.
The industry has made several praiseworthy
efforts to set standards for these terms. The Wine Institute, the
California industry association, has published a textbook of
sustainability practices to guide its members. Oregon has LIVE
‚€“ Low Input Viticulture and Enology ‚€“ which certifies wineries that
use sustainable practices. But there is no easy or uniform definition
of ‚€œsustainable viticulture.‚€ And with Monsanto advertising itself
as the epitome of sustainable agriculture, consumers are bound to become
leery of winery claims about their own farming practices or reduced
As for ‚€œorganic‚€ wines, the U.S.
government made that nomenclature impossibly confusing with its
organic agriculture regulations a few years ago, and the best the
industry can do now is label its product ‚€œmade with organically grown
grapes.‚€ That seems a half-way measure at best, and there is not a
single certifying organization to give that claim any stature or
There is a single organization for certifying biodynamic wines ‚€“ Demeter USA.
Demeter is not a wine industry creation, which gives it an extra
measure of credibility. There is still some gray area, though, as
wineries can claim to follow biodynamic practices without applying for
certification, and there is no third-party verification of those claims.
Another survey reported at the summit, from Full Glass Research,
found that 59 percent of those who purchased organic or sustainable
wines said they did so because the viticultural practices were better
for the planet, while 38 percent of those who do not purchase them said
they rarely see them on store shelves, and 33 percent of those who did
not seek these wines out simply did not care.
I like the “green wine” movement, but I
worry that it has become a marketing gimmick as much as a form of
viticulture. A wine made by practices that respect the Earth SHOULD
taste better, but when every wine becomes “green,” how will we be able