EarthGrrl: Eco-Friendly Vino (Organic Wines), Organic Food, Paper or Plastic
GourmetGrrl.com: Food with ‘tude
August 24, 2005
PlanetGrrl This week we’re channeling Mother Nature, so read up on how to steer clear of chemicals and then go hug a tree.
GourmetGrrl, aka Laura Holmes
Grrl with Corkscrew
Earth-Friendly Vino With the word organic getting slapped on everything from veggies to beer, we thought it was time to talk about just what makes a wine organic and if you should care.
The idea behind organic wine is that making wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, and other chemicals is better for the planet, the grower, and for the wine drinker. Any grape varietal can be grown organically; the barrier to growing organic grapes is that it takes more work in the vineyard, as well as more money.
It’s a noble cause, however, even if a winemaker grows their grapes organically there’s still the tiny matter of sulfites. Sulfites are added to wine before fermentation to protect against oxidation and spoilage; in essence, they stabilize the wine. Too many sulfites masks flavors and causes headaches and allergic reactions in some people. A tiny dose of sulfites is allowed under some of the organic labeling laws.
Here are the organic wine definitions for your next organic wine shopping expedition:
100% Organic – Refers to wines that are produced with grapes that are certified 100% organically grown and do not have any added sulfites.
Organic – wines that may have an additional 100 ppm of sulfur dioxide added to them.
Made with Organic Grapes – Refers to wines that have at least 70% of their grapes from organic sources. These wines may have sulfur dioxide added as well.
Some purists think organic wines must be vegan wines. Egg whites, gelatin, or dairy-derived substances are used in the final fining of most wines, a technique that gets rid of very fine solids that are left over from the fermentation process and makes the wine crystal clear. Some organic winemakers are using non-animal products instead, thus making a vegan (animal-free) vino.
As organic wine becomes more mainstream, the quality has improved dramatically. Organic wine producers in California include Frey Vineyards, Frog’s Leap Cellars, Yorkville Cellars, Fetzer’s Bonterra Vineyards, Fife, Robert Sinskey, and Grgich Hills. There are a handful of organic wines from New Zealand, Australia, Italy, and Spain but they’re harder to find. The Organic Wine Company in San Francisco sells organic French wines if you’re so inclined.
Organic Shmorganic? With all this talk about organic, it’s enough to make a grrl run for the nearest bag of Cheetos. Here’s the scoop on organic food:
When you see an apple with an “organic” sticker, it means it was grown without pesticides, chemicals or bioengineering. It’s more expensive because the farmer has to go through the growing, picking, storing, etc. according to strict federal standards, and the organic farms tend to be smaller and have smaller yields. The benefits to the planet include better drinking water (those pesticides leak into the ground), and organic crops require 50% less energy to cultivate.
Is it worth the higher price? Up to you. If chemicals and other scary science things don’t freak you out, then by all means eat the non-organic (conventional) produce. Certain types of fruit and veggies are sprayed less; tropical fruit, plums, broccoli, and leeks are among the least- sprayed. Spend the extra money on organic strawberries, spinach, and lettuce – they have much higher levels of pesticides. There is no documented health benefit to organic but it sure tastes better (most of the organic produce is sold locally, so you’re getting the freshest stuff and eating what’s in season.)
To find organic food sources near you, go to Local Harvest, a national directory of small farmers and markets.
Bag It. Paper or plastic is the cry of the grocery store these days. It’s no small potatoes: 14 million trees a year are needed to make 10 billion paper grocery bags in the U.S., and it takes one million barrels of naphtha, a petroleum derivative, annually to make 30 billion plastic bags.
Getting people to bring their own bags is one solution (although charging for bags seems to work in Ireland, South Africa and Australia, and San Francisco is considering instituting a $.17 bag surcharge on plastic bags.)
If these pesky environmental issues are giving you a headache, just skip the question altogether and bring your own sassy bag. The Sur La Table Collapsible Tote ($29.95) is sturdy, no-nonsense, and comes in cute colors. Or feel the joie de vivre and buy a traditional straw French Market Tote from ecobags.com ($32). (Ecobags sells oodles of planet-friendly totes.) You just might look stylish and save the planet at the same time; who knew?