Spring is turning toward summer, even as I write. The sun is high in the sky and the temperatures are warming up, encouraging outdoor gathering and good cheer after a long, long, long (I think you get my point) winter. I find myself, once again, getting reacquainted with my grill and (occasionally) reaching for an adult beverage. So, let’s talk about wine.
Last year at this time I offered a short article on beer. Coincidence? Probably not. Anyway, back to wine. Wine, as you know, is generally made from grapes. And, sadly, grapes (at least in the U.S.) hold a high ranking (but not esteemed) place on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list.
In the current iteration of this list, which is revised annually, grapes rank sixth for level of pesticide residue found on the fruit. In other words, of all the produce tested by the EWG, grapes came out with the sixth highest pesticide residue level (apples top the list, followed by peaches, then nectarines). Now I don’t know about you, but somehow I’ve managed to push this information aside when buying wine (though I’m vigilant about buying only organic grapes for eating because, well, pesticide residue!). But fear not! There are alternatives to wines produced with highly sprayed grapes — and I’m going to (I hope) help you navigate that terrain.
One way to ensure that your wine is “clean” is to consider organic wine. Similar to the food certification process, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets the standards for organic wine certification in the U.S. As with food certifications, this process prohibits the use of some substances (e.g., synthetic pesticides, herbicides, GMO), including added sulfites, in order to qualify for the organic seal. A separate category allows for wines to be sold with the claim “made with organic grapes,” which requires that 100% organic grapes be used but allows for a low level of added sulfites and does not as stringently dictate the other ingredients.
I should note here that the wine making process naturally produces some sulfites from the grapes — so all wine contains some naturally occurring sulfites in the form of sulfur dioxide. We currently carry several wines that are either certified organic or made with organically grown grapes.
A newer certification on the winemaking scene is the Certified Green – Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program. This is a third-party verified sustainable winegrowing program out of California. The certified sustainable practices for this label include integrated pest management (IPM) and land stewardship, among other areas of focus. Lodi Rules certified growers now account for over 26,000 acres of vineyard in California, including Tortoise Creek and Plungerhead wines, both of which are available at Monadnock Food Co-op.
Perhaps the most stringent certification is biodynamic certification, verified through Demeter USA. Taking organic to the next level, biodynamic certification seeks to “heal the planet through agriculture.” I’m optimistic that you may see some biodynamic wines on our shelves soon, so stay tuned!
I know this can all be overwhelming, particularly when you’re in a hurry and just need to pick something up for the dinner party you’re heading to. Know that our wine buyer, Megan, is working hard to increase the variety of sustainably produced wines that we carry at the Monadnock Food Co-op. Feel free to chat with her if you have any questions. She is quite knowledgeable and has a great love for clean agricultural practices.