Skip to main content
Holidays Top Bottles

Celebrate Earth Day with Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable Wines

Go green with your wine — start with these 12 producers

Janice Williams By April 15, 2022
the globe surrounded by wine bottles
Illustration by Pix. Earth Image by AlexLMX/iStock.

Earth Day marks a moment when people worldwide come together to shine a light on the environmental crisis affecting the planet and to ask what can be done.

According to the official website, more than 150,000 organizations and 192 countries recognize Earth Day, which began 50 years ago. At the same time, one billion individuals have pledged to do their part in making the world a better, greener, cleaner place in honor of the holiday.

Wineries, already affected by climate change, are keen to do their part.

“We have always believed in being stewards of the land. We want to continue farming with practices that improve soil health and reverse climate change to produce high-quality wines in the future,” says Aaron Fishleder, vice president of operations at Cakebread Cellars in Napa, which is a part of the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing program and holds Napa Green and Fish Friendly certifications. 

But while consumers want to support environmentally-friendly businesses, the messaging behind “green” wine can be confusing — unless you know some of the key certifications.

Certified organic

To be certified organic, wineries must farm according to principles set by the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. These include not using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to grow the grapes. The specifications extend to production, as the yeasts used must also be certified organic. Winemaking additives can only be used if they are on the national list.

If a winemaker incorporates organic practices in the vineyard but not during production, wines can only be labeled “made with organically grown grapes.”

The definition is slightly different in Europe, as European winemakers are allowed to use sulfites up to 100 parts per million, though in practice few winemakers would use this much. In the U.S., wines labeled as USDA Organic must not have sulfites added; they are therefore known as no sulfites added, or NSA wines. They may contain up to 10 ppm of naturally occurring sulfites.

Certified organic wines to try:

bottle of Badger Mountain Columbia Valley Pure Red

Badger Mountain Columbia Valley Pure Red 2017 (~$7)

Not your average wine in a box — this is a blend of organic Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec from Washington state. Big in fragrance and body, the wine displays a range of complex ripe fruit flavors and a touch of spice, which round out in the long finish.

bottle of Mionetto Organic Prosecco

Mionetto Organic Prosecco NV (~$14)

From the Veneto region of Italy, this dazzling sparkling wine is made with the country’s native Glera grape and is produced from a separate vinification, away from Mionetto’s standard sparkling. The aroma and taste is loaded with apple and tropical fruit while the tiny bubbles are persistent from first sip to the finish.

bottle of Souleil Vin de Bonté Vin de France Le Rosé

Souleil Vin de Bonté Vin de France Le Rosé 2020 (~$21)

Made from organic Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault grapes grown in France, this wine is kissed with the salinity of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. It also offers plenty of fresh red fruit flavors and abundant mouthwatering acidity.

Certified biodynamic

Biodynamic farming dates from the 1920s, when philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures on agriculture, and first laid down the principles now incorporated into biodynamic farming. The core principle is that the farm is a single system, and everything within the farm is interrelated. It’s a form of organic farming that particularly emphasizes soil health and uses composts and manures in place of synthetic fertilizers. Biodiversity is valued, and a minimum of 10% of the farm must be set aside as a biodiversity preserve.

Biodynamics also uses specific preparations for field sprays and compost additives; the most famous of these is preparation 500, or “horn manure,” which is made by burying manure packed into a cow horn in the fall, to be dug up in spring. 

There can be a mystical side to biodynamics, with some practitioners using moon calendars, or taking note of planetary movements. The U.S. certification is done by Demeter.

“Using biodynamic and certified sustainable practices adds an authenticity to the wines that conventional farming cannot attain,” says Chris Benziger, Brand Ambassador for Benziger Family Winery, a Sonoma winery that holds biodynamic and sustainable certifications.

Certified biodynamic wines to try:

bottle of Brick House Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir

Brick House Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir 2019 (~$34)

A Gamay Noir from the Willamette Valley, this wine is full of freshness. A ruby red color, the wine exudes cherry berry aromas that match on the palate along with floral and herbal nuances. The wine is light and easy to drink.

bottle of King Estate Domaine Willamette Valley Pinot Gris

King Estate Domaine Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2019 (~$27)

Another Willamette Valley delight, this Pinot Gris by King Estate is rich with limey, peachy, and floral characteristics. The palate is bright and citrusy, while tangy acidity comes to life in the lush finish.

bottle of Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Languedoc-Roussillon Rouge

Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Languedoc-Roussillon Rouge 2019 (~$43)

This wine is made with a blend of biodynamically farmed Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, and Caladoc grapes. Big-bodied and spicy, the wine exudes complex aromas and flavors of black and blue fruit, black pepper, and olive. The finish is long and full with supple tannins.

bottle of Benzinger Estate Joaquin's Inferno Sonoma Mountain Red Blend

Benziger Estate Joaquin's Inferno Sonoma Mountain Red Blend 2019 (~$71)

This Sonoma Valley wine is a blend of biodynamically-farmed Zinfandel, Grenache, and Petite Sirah grapes. While aromas of strawberry are pronounced, the palate evolves with flavors of cinnamon spice and black pepper. Full-bodied to the core, this wine has an incredibly long finish that seems to go on and on.

Sustainable

While sustainable certifications often — but not always — require the same kinds of environmental practices that are required for biodynamic and organic, they also focus on a winery’s community impact. There are a number of different sustainable certifications, but one important one is the Certified Sustainable label given by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. This seal covers aspects concerning a winery’s operations like pest management regulations, regular monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions, and offering educational benefits to employees. 

Another certification is the Sustainability in Practice seal, which initially started in California but has recently expanded to other U.S. winemaking regions. SIP regulates aspects like water and energy management, however, some chemicals such as glyphosate are permitted in the vineyard, though there are restrictions on how much can be used and how often. SIP also ensures that wineries with the seal treat their employees fairly and ethically. Competitive wages and medical insurance are requirements under SIP’s certification.

Sustainable wines to try:

bottle of Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (~$85)

Complex and concentrated dark fruit nuances and spicy notes make this wine shine. Though Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape, a touch of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Sirah are added to round out the wine’s full-bodied and deep tannin structure.

bottle of Herdade dos Grous Alentejo, Portugal White Blend

Herdade dos Grous Alentejo White Blend 2019 (~$20)

This sustainably-made white wine comes from Portugal. It’s made with a blend of native grapes including Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Gouveio. Full-bodied and highly aromatic, this wine features a palate cloaked in fresh fruit flavors that are supported by intense minerality and peppery nuances.

bottle of Cousino Macul Antiguas Maipo Valley Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon

Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (~$16)

This wine hails from the Maipo Valley region of Chile. A rather bright and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine oozes with aromas and flavors of cherry, cranberry, and strawberry while the palate is drenched in acidity. Fresh tannins give the medium-bodied wine some backbone and persist through the long, lingering finish.

Regenerative

Certified regenerative is the newest viticulture condition to explain a winery’s environmental efforts, launched by the Regenerative Organic Alliance in 2017. Tablas Creek was the first American winery to receive the certification, in 2019. 

“Regenerative farming and viticulture is based on a simple yet complex objective: Imitate nature as much as possible, like a forest would do. Our main objective is to bring back life to the soils and regenerate them,” says fifth-generation Miguel Torres Maczassek, the general manager of Familia Torres.

Torres Maczassek adds, “With this new balance based on increasing biodiversity and organic matter in a natural way, we can enhance the role of our vineyards to capture carbon from the atmosphere and help to fight against climate change.”

The new certification for regenerative viticulture is based on basic organic farming methods under the USDA’s National Organic Program. However, it takes things a step further by implementing specific measures to improve soil health, animal treatment, and farmworker fairness. 

“We have people who were part of the first full-time crew that we hired in 1996, Now, 26 years later, they’re still working at Tablas Creek. And that level of experience and loyalty is rare. And it’s incredibly valuable,” says Jason Haas, winemaker at Tablas Creek Vineyard. “That’s one of the benefits that really becomes apparent in the long term.”

He adds that farming this way means, “you are using your farm to positively impact your community and your environment.”

Regenerative wines to try:

bottle of Tablas Creek Paso Robles Grenache Blanc

Tablas Creek Paso Robles Grenache Blanc 2018 (~$42)

Made of 100% Grenache Blanc, this wine is full-bodied with healthy acidity. The wine features aromas and flavors of orchard and citrus fruit, while spicy anise lingers in the background with briny minerality. The finish is long and rich and completes with a touch of lemon.

bottle of Familia Torres Salmos Priorat DOC

Familia Torres Salmos Priorat DOCa 2017 (~$39)

Ruby red with an intense fragrance, this wine smells of crushed red berries and dark fruits mixed with spice. On the palate, herb and coffee bean nuances come into play along with dusty tannins and minerality.

bottle of Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino

Biondi-Santi Tenuta Greppo Rosso di Montalcino 2018 (~$111)

This bright red wine is made with Sangiovese by the famous Tuscan winery, Biondi-Santi. The wine is silky, displaying ripe cherry fruit and leathery, savory nuances. Regenerative farming has been an issue dear to Federico Raddi’s heart since he became head winemaker at Biondi-Santi in 2017. “To be a successful farmer, you must know the nature of the soil,” he says.