Organic, Biodynamic, sustainable, “clean”: Many wine producers are eager to impress with their environmental credentials, and their labels, websites and marketing materials often reflect that. But some of these terms carry more credibility than others.
Organic – or more commonly, on U.S. wine labels, made from organically grown grapes – involves third-party certification. Ditto Biodynamic, which is similar to organic but incorporates practices related to the cycles of the moon and the use of specific preparations in the vineyard.
Any winery can call itself “sustainable,” but there are groups that provide third-party certifications involving not only vineyard and winery practices but also guidelines for things like the treatment of workers. Look on the label for terms such as “SIP Certified” or “Lodi Rules.”
Which brings us to the notion of “clean,” which conjures up visions of wines that are pristine and additive-free. Maybe, but there’s no legal definition. And the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) – which, among other things, regulates wine labeling – recently issued a statement warning against the use of the term “clean” by wine and other alcohol producers. The agency notes that its regulations contain no definition for the term, and it warns that such language could be construed as a misleading health-related statement.
All that said, in celebration of Earth Day, here are three wines with organic certifications that are worth checking out.
Lambrusco’s heyday in the U.S. came in the 1970s with a particular brand of sweet, fizzy Italian red often served over ice. This wine is not that. It’s a serious (and seriously delicious) sparkling red. The 2020 Medici Ermete “Concerto” Reggiano Lambrusco ($26) is zippy and dry, with a pretty ruby color and bright red raspberry flavors. It’s a great wine to cut through rich foods or even a pizza. This is the winery’s first vintage that has been certified organic.
If you’re looking for a white, consider Tablas Creek Vineyard in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles. (The reds are outstanding, too, for that matter.) The winery’s estate vineyard is Regenerative Organic Certified, which involves organic practices coupled with tenets on soil health, animal welfare and social fairness. (Tablas Creek also has organic and Biodynamic certifications.)
The striking thing about the Tablas Creek whites is their energy and freshness, especially given the warm climate of Paso Robles. That’s true of the 2020 Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc de Tablas ($50), a blend dominated by roussanne. It’s fleshy and bright, with white stone fruit, Meyer lemon, some floral notes and a hint of wet stone. I’m also a big fan of the grenache blanc and the vermentino, but they’re sold out at the winery.
Finally, a delicious red from the St. Helena AVA of the Napa Valley. The 2018 Ehlers Estate Merlot ($65) – from a vineyard that’s been certified organic since 2008 – is structured and lively, with ripe black fruit, mocha and spice. It’s a good candidate for the cellar – maybe for next Earth Day.