Champagne Keeps Getting Greener

Vineyards of Vizernay, Montagne de Reims, ChampagneNew Programs Continue Multiyear Carbon Reduction Campaign:

As Earth Day approaches, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) is furthering the Champagne region's leadership in environmental preservation with new initiatives to reuse woody biomass and wastewater from wine production.  
The region has launched an appellation-wide program to transform the 150,000 metric tons of wood waste generated from vineyard pruning into energy, reducing pollution and helping replace fossil fuels used in wine production with a renewable source of energy. 
Through this BIOVIVE (Biomasse Viticole) initiative, the Champagne region is working with local utilities to cut the current carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 10,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 5,000 vehicles off the road. 
Similarly, wine production results in 600,000 cubic meters (m3) of wastewater and byproducts each year. Since 1990, when only five percent of wastewater was treated and reused, the Champagne industry has steadily increased its environmental stewardship; now 95 percent of wastewater is treated and 91 percent is recycled. 
"Champagne only comes from Champagne. The distinctive land and climate of Champagne cannot be replicated elsewhere and the people of Champagne understand that they must be protected to preserve the region's centuries-old wine-making tradition," said Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. representative of the CIVC. "These efforts are just a few of the environmental initiatives that the Champagne region has undertaken as part of its campaign to reduce the region's carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020."
Champagne is not merely a type of wine; it is a unique region with a long history of winemaking expertise. Located 90 miles northeast of Paris, the region covers less than 80,000 acres. Only grapes handpicked in the carefully delineated plots inside the appellation can be used to produce Champagne. The CIVC, comprised of all the grape growers and houses in Champagne, has led these environmental initiatives to ensure that Champagne continues to focus on quality and preserve its unique wine-growing location. 
The region's leadership in emission reduction began in 2002 with the first-ever wine region environmental impact assessment. Based on the audit results, the Champagne region set itself the goal of cutting carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050.
To achieve this, there are currently more than 40 initiatives to reduce the region's environmental footprint. For example, after the CIVC determined that the production, packing and shipping of wine bottles accounted for 33 percent of the region's carbon emissions, it announced a new standard bottle in 2010 which, at more than two ounces lighter, will reduce the region's annual CO2 output by 8,000 metric tons, equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 4,000 cars. The new design consists mainly of changes to the neck of the bottle and was tested extensively to ensure that it maintains the performance, safety and character of the bottle historically used in the region.
"In 2002, the Champagne appellation showed true leadership by engaging in the most comprehensive environmental audit of a wine region that had ever been conducted," continued Heitner. "Introducing a lighter bottle, reusing wood waste and capturing wastewater are small steps that, when implemented throughout the region, help make a significant difference in the carbon emitted from the Champagne appellation."

- Information obtained from the Champagne Bureau

Celebrate Earth Day with Organic Wine

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration of environmental awareness.  It's observed every April 22nd and I can't think of any better way to enjoy it than to pop open a bottle (or two!) of wine made with organically grown grapes!  Here are a few selections which I recommend:

Colome Malbec.  This wine is made in the Salta province of Argentina with the highest altitude grapes in the world.  The wine is aged in French oak and is mostly Malbec combined with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.  It's dark, juicy, spicy and can be had for around $25.  Hard to beat this producer for the price either!

Grgich Hills Chardonnay.  Not only are the grapes grown on this estate organic, but biodynamic as well.  Mike Grgich has been involved in making some of the best wines in the world for longer than Earth Day has been around, especially Chardonnays.  His Chardonnays have small oak nuances like vanilla and toast and preserve the grape's natural flavors by using Burgundian practices, like no malolactic fermentation.  Minerality and tropical flavor explodes, and all for around $40.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio.  Not only does Mr. Lageder make great wine but he does it for a great value- most of his wines are priced around $15!  Coming from northeast Italy, this Pinot Grigio is the total package- it's lightly creamy, floral and aromatic, with a touch of spice and loads of citrus fruit.  Open some oysters, roast some fish and enjoy.

Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir.  Making good Pinot Noir can be easy in Oregon, but it's not a sure thing.  When you take a loving approach to the grape and grow it organically, it just seems to come out right.  That's no different than what Maysara practices, and they churn out Pinot Noir that is full of berry flavor, spices, herbs and minerality on a yearly basis.  Get it for around $20.

Descendientes de Jose Palacios "Petalos" Bierzo.  This wine is made from ancient Mencia vines in northwest Spain.  Take the dark purple juice and combine with new French oak, and you get a wine an excellent profile: berries, licorice, flowers, minerality and smokiness.  I still can't believe you can buy this for around $18!

Peter Lehmann Shiraz Barossa.  It's no surprise that this wine is an awesome deal as it's made from organic grapes, priced around $15 and comes from down under!  A wine so full of plum flavor with hints of cocoa, oak, cherry and grippy tannins should be on your Earth Day list.

Chono Carmenere Reserva.  If you're planning on eating beef this Earth Day then this is the wine for you.  Cherry, vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and overall bold flavors make this a steal of an organic deal at around $10.  Grab a bit of Chilean value from this family vineyard produced, hand picked wine.

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Rouge.  What?  Another deal from southeast France?  Is it possible?  Of course.  They've been churning out big value for quite some time and this organic wine is no exception.  Priced around $18 and full blueberry, cherry, cassis, pepper and spice.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.

Sokol Blosser Evolution.  Another Oregon organic, this is a blend of eight different varietals: Müller Thurgau, Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  Just because they pack all those grapes in there doesn't mean it affects the price as it's only around $17 per bottle.  Great spring wine too!

Bonny Doon "Le Cigare Volant".  An awesome California Rhone varietal blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault.  Their organically grown grapes produce alot of fruit flavor like raspberry and cherry, along with anise, chocolate and both earthy and smokey tones.  Gotta love this meaty wine for under $30.

Well, we went through ten wines from around the globe and alot of different varietals.  There are obviously so many more options when it comes to "green wines", but these are a good start.  If you can't find these, make sure to consult with your wine shop consultants and I'm sure they will steer you in the right direction.  Also, since you're making an effort to try these wines, make sure to do your part: reduce your carbon footprint, plant a tree and recycle!  You'll help secure your children's future along with the planet's natural beauty.  After all, we were given the Earth as a gift.  Let's try to keep it clean.