Sustainability in wine making is an old topic. Even then, sometimes we are not sure which sustainable wines to buy. We hunt down some credible names that are not just sustainable, but also great in quality and style.
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: January 4, 2022
From continent to continent and coast to coast, wineries are touting their sustainable practices, growing and harvesting their grapes with a back-to-basics approach which is an all-around win-win for our planet and the wine industry. While you might not be focusing 100% of your wine buying and tasting on sustainable wines, you’d be surprised to learn that many of the wines that you’re already enjoying might be more sustainable than you thought! There are many and we’ve discovered a few to share with you through our frequent wine tastings.
Ferragamo's Castiglion del Bosco winery
It is in Italy, where wine making started more than 4,000 years ago, where the action is. In the Tuscany region of Montalcino, the Ferragamo family (yes, THE Ferragamo family) has been cultivating wine since 2000. Castiglion del Bosco is not only a winery but also a luxury retreat in the sumptuous and soothing UNESCO landscape of Val d'Orcia. Having taken over the winery in early 2000s, the Ferragamo family has embraced organic viticulture as a personal contribution to preserve a most unique landscape that is beloved visitors all over the world. Their Brunello di Montalcino 2016 is a 100% Sangiovese and tastes like a multi-layered and complex silky wine releasing the fruit of a vintage that has been awarded excellent quality and ageing capacity.
Classic Chianti wine, also from Tuscany, is also using sustainable practices at Querciabella, a cutting-edge winery which farms biodynamically—the most rigorous of farming practices—and is also certified vegan as it does not use any animal products or by-products. Querciabella's Chianti Classico 2017 represents the pinnacle of high-altitude, perfectly exposed Sangiovese fruit from which it is made and is one of the more refined Chianti Classicos in this vintage year.
Down in Sicily, the hot and windy climate is best suited to the island’s indigenous grape varieties which have adapted to the climate through centuries and have therefore developed a huge resistance to mold and disease. The Sicilia DOC appellation, which covers the whole island, has created the SOStain foundation which supports grape growers and producers in their transition to organic farming. Cantine Ermes is one of the many wineries farming organically and its Vento di Mare Grillo Organic 2019 is made from 100% native Grillo. Fresh and fruity, this wine is a perfect example of the island’s excellent drinkable wines.
Italy’s sparkling wines, not to be confused with Prosecco, are mostly made in Trento, a city in northern Italy. Quick side note: méthode champenoise sparkling wines from there are labeled “Trentodoc” and are bottled using the traditional, labor-intensive bottle fermentation whereby wine (called “juice” in the wine industry) undergoes a second fermentation process in the bottle which produces the carbon dioxide and the bubbly mouthfeel in sparkling wine and Champagne. The widespread use of pest management in Trentino, the first Italian region to apply this practice in the late 1980s, is the only certification system in Italy that embraces the highest number of viticulturalists, coordinated by a single consortium, for the benefit of the environment and end consumers.
Méthode champenoise sparkling wines from [Trento] are labeled “Trentodoc” and are bottled using the traditional, labor-intensive bottle fermentation whereby wine (called “juice” in the wine industry) undergoes a second fermentation process in the bottle which produces the carbon dioxide and the bubbly mouthfeel in sparkling wine and Champagne.
Maso Martis is a Trentodoc bubbly wine produced by a multi-awarded, family-led winery and is an excellent example of the appellation’s identity statement about sustainability. The Extra Dry Brut Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir and has been aged for 36 months on the lees. It is a surprisingly food-friendly bubbly, but it can also stand by itself as an aperitif sparkling wine and has a lovely pale pink color.
Back in the US, states like Oregon and California have some remarkable assets from which to produce their wines. The Penner-Ash winery, whose first release was in 1998, in Oregon near the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Hood, has a huge grove on its estate where majestic native Oregon oak trees grow along with native flowers, fruits and vegetables in a harmonious, biodiverse garden. Their 2019 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley wine reflects the region’s terroir and captures the stunning landscape in a bottle like a textural experience from start to finish. Stonestreet Estate in California’s Alexander Valley is an extensive, mountainous wine estate which produces distinctive single-vineyard wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from an extremely sloping landscape setting. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is an expressive cuvée from the mountainous vineyard blocks.
Quintessa Vineyard in Rutherford, CA
Over in Rutherford, Quintessa embraced organic farming from its beginning in 1989, then transitioned to biodynamic farming in 1996. They produce only one wine, dubbed the Quintessa, which is a red wine blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. That's a lot of different varietals in one bottle!
Chile has some remarkable wineries that are innovators in the sustainable category. The Rapel River’s geographical location creates a world class growing region in the Colchagua Valley which brings sea breezes to cool the vineyards. One such winery, Concha y Toro Gran Reserva, is committed to the sustainability and conservation of this region, thereby increasing Chile’s biodiversity. Besides its sustainable practices, the winery has expanded its protection of the surrounding forests and fields to ensure that biodiversity thrives for the production of its benchmark red varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, and its Sauvignon Blanc. That’s a positive dual-purpose wine in the glass if there ever was one!
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.