A Toast to the Health of Earth Day
April 20, 2012
Vernal bliss is fully upon the north country, and while we are all enjoying the radiant weather, truth be told, we really can use the approaching rains, to support balance in the system. These sunny, breezy days have been fair weather ones for alternative energy production in VT, when wind, sun, and water facilities are all working, because in this climate they can not be counted on to all have good inputs at the same time.
We convened our local tasting panel for an evaluation and discussion of wines that are meant to be good to the earth. We tried over a dozen wines, and talked about the designations for special categories of wine that intend to distinguish themselves based not only on wine quality, but on the relationship of the producers to the land. We explored the topics of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines…and found some interesting results.
In the video below I give a quick recap of our discussion and questions from the tasting panel discussion, overlooking the Green Mountains in Manchester, Vermont, as I get ready to attend and judge the 2012 WineMakers Magazine International Amateur Wine Competition. In years past, ‘organic’ wines had a dubious reputation among some consumers, among whom I was one, some time ago. In principle I was on board, in practice, that’s how I have always tried to grow things, in the product, I’d had some pretty skunky wines…but that taste of the future was a decade ago. It was great to see over a dozen wines enjoyed, all of which fell into categories that the average consumer might consider, as being grown and made in ways that are consciously kind to the wine world around us.
Lively and interesting discussions were the backdrop to the wine evaluation, and three main concerns rose to the fore among this small but diverse consumer group:
1) It is difficult to discern between the many varieties of sustainable certification, organics in the US, as well as organics in Europe, those that are Biodynamic certified, and those that claim to practice, but have not registered to meet requirements. Wine is already a challenge and trying to drink green increases the bar.
2) At this stage the topic was of interest to the group, but had not yet matured to the extent that it would affect buying decisions in the way that it has, with organic vegetables and ‘free-range’ meats.
3) Most interesting, was the impression that when large brands engage in green marketing, that consumers were more skeptical of motives, than when that same approach is pursued by family and artisanal producers.
I had already begun putting together a selection from the home cellar for this group, when Pasternak Wine offered some samples from the same categories, so we chose to include those wines as well.
I am compiling our notes and scores from that evening, while a heavy rain falls on the Equinox Resort, after unseasonably warm and dry weather for weeks. By Chance, and an ironic one at that, the only thing remotely interesting on TV is The Day After Tomorrow. Let’s continue to work for a better one.
Our panel tasting uses two 20 point scoring systems, and averages the results to determine relative standings of the wines evaluated, within their grouping. I was very interested to see that all of the wines received scores in the 12+ range, which puts them in the GOOD category, above the “commercially acceptable” level…and the two leading wines reached the “Excellent” level.
The Huffington Post picked up an about.com editor’s quick piece on the different categories, no way comprehensive, but a quick reference.
At New Years, Frank Morgan @DrinkWhatYouLike did a primer article about Biodynamic viticulture, while exploring the idea of the process here on the east coast, and a very lively and informed discussion ensued among the commentary. My own thoughts on the subject are included there amongst the discussion.
Natural Wines is a category that we did not discuss at length during the tasting panel discussion, not because it was unworthy, but rather because I was concerned about concept overload, and may be up for discussion at a future gathering. Imbibe Magazine has a recent article that does a decent job of describing the movement.