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8.10.2009 10:40 AM

Which Wineries Are the Greenest?

Greenopia rates 25 wine makers for their environmental impact.

Try some of the best organic red wines we've tasted.

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Photo: William Walsh / istock

By Ayana Meade

Spicy, Bold, Earthy. If you're as much of a wine connoisseur as the main character Miles from the movie Sideways, then you're familiar with these terms to describe a fine bottle of vino. Now add another word to your vocabulary when talking about the good stuff: Sustainable. For a true oenophile, whether a wine was grown using sustainable practices should be just as important as vintage, and here's why.

Many of the growing and production practices used in making wine are the very same things that could affect the delicate soil and climactic conditions needed for growing suitable wine grapes. Tremendous amounts of water can be used to irrigate vineyards and growing grapes takes up millions of acres of land, both of which have an impact on local resources and affect wildlife. Not to mention, shipping and producing wine (and wine bottles) produces carbon dioxide and other emissions, which contribute to global warming, threatening to alter the conditions and locales where grapes have been growing for hundreds of years.

So, if you truly love wine, before you pop that cork, check out Greenopia's Wine Rating Guide.

At the top of the list, receiving three leaves out of a possible four, were Alma Rosa (organic grapes), Frog's Leap (great environmental reporting and LEED-certified building) and French Rabbit (low-impact packaging in the form of the Tetra-Pak).

Greenopia, who rates everything from the environmental impact of airlines, to big box stores, put their research team to the test. Each winery was examined by obtaining hard data from the companies themselves pertaining to their growing practices, transportation, building logistics and wine packaging. Weights were set based off the relative life cycle impacts of each criterion during wine production. Larger commercial wineries and smaller estate wineries were all examined.

Ayana Meade is an assistant editor for Greenopia.

Editor's Note: We asked Doug Mazeffa, the chief researcher for Greenopia, how the group selected the wineries to review. He replied: "We basically picked the 15 largest wineries in terms of distribution (although sources do vary a bit) and blended in 10 so-called 'greener' wineries to see how they stacked up. We did make sure that the greener wineries still had a large distribution network like the major brands so it was a level playing field. We do this so we can show how larger brands can go green and still be successful (many argue that they can't) and to alert users to which major brands may actually be doing something to reduce their impact."


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