In many ways, the worldwide movement to sustainable agriculture has been led by winegrowers and winemakers.
A pioneer in California’s sustainability movement since 1985, the Benziger family has farmed its vineyards and purchased fruit to certified sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming standards. Its full-flavored 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) shows organic wines can be good and affordable. Its biodynamic 2016 Signaterra Cabernet Sauvignon “Sunny Slope Vineyard” ($59) displays the deep fruit and firm palate worthy of its price.
Also in 1985, Spottswoode Estate Winery became the first organically farmed vineyard in Napa Valley. Since then, it has emerged as a social and environmental leader while rising to wine’s top tier. Recognizing the systemic nature of sustainability and the challenges of climate change, this estate emphasizes certified biodynamic vineyards and cultivates biodiversity with native cover crops, fruit trees, farm animals, bees and birds. And sustainability extends to business practices as Spottswoode is a Certified B Corporation and member of 1% for the Planet. The pure citrus, mineral and herbal character of the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($42) represents beautifully.
Since 2004, JONATA Estate in Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley, has practiced a form of sustainable farming dubbed “polyface.” This effort integrates and revolves livestock animals around the ranch to enhance soil health. The 2017 “Todos” ($50) combines Bordeaux and Rhone varieties to dramatic, full-bodied effect.
Bouchaine Vineyards became one of Carneros’ founding wineries in 1981. This leader of sustainable viticulture was the first Napa winery to receive Fish Friendly Certification and also is Napa Green Certified. Bouchaine is best-known for fine chardonnay and pinot noir, but the 2018 Estate Pinot Meunier (a lesser known grape of Champagne) is delightfully bright, fresh and savory.
In Paso Robles, Robert Hall Winery has initiated a trial to compare regenerative (organic and biodynamic) viticulture with conventional, though sustainably farmed, vineyards. It will be assessing the effectiveness of carbon sequestration along with quality and cost impacts. While awaiting the results, enjoy the well-fruited 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20).
As Argentina’s largest exporter of organically grown wines, Domaine Bousquet produces these varieties from the high-altitude Tupungato zone in Mendoza’s Uco Valley. Its Sparkling Rosé ($13), a delightful three-quarters pinot noir, one-quarter chardonnay blend, is a fantastic value. From the same subregion, the 2019 Coen “Classic” Malbec ($25), also made with certified organic grapes ($25) from high-elevation vineyards in the Uco Valley, presents a fruitful mix of berries.
Wine has been made at what is now known as Badia a Coltibuono for nearly 1,000 years. All of the estate grapes are now organically grown. And Badia is one of the leading advocates of organic farming in Tuscany. A good introduction is the abundant 2019 “Colmaia” Sangiovese ($13), released under the Cultusboni label, which is a line of everyday, affordable wines.
Sustainability also is growing in importance in Sicily. The Tasca d’Almerita estates are known for their commitment to the “SOStain” protocol for water conservation, carbon reduction, bottle weight, biodiversity, energy saving and farmer health. The family’s Tenuta Tascante estate planted near Mount Etna focuses production on native varieties such as the nerello mascalese in the lively, red-fruited 2017 Ghiaia Nera Etna Rosso ($21).