Wineries Devoted To Sustainability Are Becoming The Rule, Not The Exception

Posted: Sep 06, 2021

It is difficult to understand how farmers and fishermen so often put immediate gains over long-term plans to keep their industries going. Farmers deplete the minerals in their farms’ soil and go for optimal volume over taste, while fisherman collect every lobster and all the tuna they can find, knowing the supply is not unlimited. In the world of viticulture, however, sustainability has become far more the rule than the exception and concerns over the myriad changes global warming can cause in a vineyard, from water to insects, are driving major investments to blunt their oncoming force. Here are some international wineries in the forefront of the battle.

Villa Maria: This well-known, innovative winery has launched a new sustainability-focused wine range focused on naturally farmed Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc under the EarthGarden label. The wines are from naturally farmed Pinot Noir and Sauvignon vineyards, free of synthetic chemicals, and Villa Maria has invested heavily in developing wildflower garden systems and regenerative viticulture across many of their owned vineyards. Its Villa Maria EarthGarden Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($20) is really an evolution of NZ style, with far more complexity than so many others in the past, with combined citrus and flower aromas underpinned with acid. Its Villa Maria EarthGarden Marlborough Pinot Noir 2019 ($24) is not as blockbuster powerful as others are, which means more subtlety and earthiness to be appreciated.

The Las Brisas Vineyard in Napa Carneros is perfect for cool-climate wines, with daily fog lying on the terroir until noon. Its 2018 Riesling ($38) is rare among this California varietal for its equilibrium of flavor, acid and spiciness, closer to an Alsatian style. The company’s mantra is that “In our vineyards, cellars and offices, Carneros Wine Company | Mahoney Vineyards focuses on stewardship of the lands that provide for us. From the energy efficient tractors and owl boxes in our vineyards, to the solar arrays and recycle programs in our offices, we try to minimize our carbon footprint whenever and wherever we can. In fact, because we are in the agriculture business, our goal is to produce less CO2 than our vineyards offset.”

FEL vineyards in Anderson Valley, California, uses every modern technique to combat climate change, including natural compost and organic fertilizer; cover cropping; conversion to no tillage; mechanical weed control; a riparian habitat for wildlife corridors and aquatic habitats; deficit irrigation; and integrated pest management. The 2020 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Gris ($28) comes from the Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley’s so-called "Deep End,” whose nearness to the Pacific Ocean cools things down and allows the grapes to develop without getting overripe, so you have a Pinot Gris with more body and pear flavors than the bland examples that come from France and Italy.

By John Mariani
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