The market for organic products in the United States has grown more than 25-fold in the last two decades, so it’s not surprising to learn that wineries have joined the move toward more eco-friendly products. But there are two important things to understand in a discussion of eco-friendly wine. First, it’s not as easy to identify a green wine — which can fall into one of four categories — as it is an organic potato, which is either organic or not. Second, no one has quite figured out whether eco-friendly wines taste better because they’re environmentally sound or because better winemakers use those techniques.
Eco-friendly wine falls into one of four groups:
• First, “made with organic grapes”, which is regulated by the federal government. But this doesn’t guarantee that other parts of the winemaking process, like wood barrels used for aging, are organic.
• Second, “organic”, which is wine made without added sulfites (though the grapes themselves don’t have to be organic).
• Third, “bio-dynamic”, the next step beyond organic, based on principles established by European philosopher Rudolf Steiner almost 100 years ago.
• Fourth, “sustainably farmed”, which calls for growers and wineries to use environmentally friendly, socially equitable and economically feasible methods to grow grapes and make wine. It’s certified by a private group, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
These eco-friendly wines are a good way to learn about what’s available, and you can find them all at Central Market:
• Chimango Tempranillo ($9): This red wine from Argentina, made with organic grapes, is from Familia Zuccardi, a pioneer in green wine in South America. It’s fruitier than a Spanish tempranillo, but not as fruity as a malbec.
• Benziger Sauvignon Blanc ($12, shown above): This sustainably-farmed white, from a leading California eco-friendly producer, is one of my favorites. It’s not as citrusy as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, with more traditional characteristics like lime zest. Best yet, it’s a hot weather wine.
• Sacra Natura ($22): This Spanish red blend is labeled organic, and has the Spanish balance between fruit and acid. There are also some spicy overtones, something to look for if you wonder how wine can have such a thing.
With Your Wine
It’s hot. Everyone is cranky. So buy some lemons on closeout and make this, which is so easy you’ll wonder why you never did it before. It doesn’t need an ice cream maker or top chef skills — just lots of lemons and and a freezer.
Serves four, takes about 2 1/2 hours (adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”)
1 to 2 c of simple syrup
1 1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
(about 12 lemons)
1. Make the simple syrup by combining 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Let cool
2. Mix 1 cup of cooled simple syrup with the lemon juice. Add more syrup if it’s not sweet enough (which is a matter of taste).
3. Pour the mixture into a shallow glass or ceramic pan and freeze for about 2 hours. Stir every 30 minutes to break up the mixture, which gives it its unique texture.
Ask the Wine Guy
What’s the difference between a blend and a varietal wine?
A varietal wine is wine made with just one grape variety, like chardonnay or merlot. A blend is made with more than one grape. There isn’t any difference in terms of quality between the two; mostly, the difference is in the person drinking the wine and what they like.