Is organic wine better for the environment?

Illuminating answers to environmental questions.
March 22 2011 7:11 AM

Vinho Verde

Is organic wine really better for the environment?

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Marketing also plays a role. Consumers often assume that organic dairy and produce are superior to the conventional stuff, and they're willing to pay a premium for them. Wine snobs, on the other hand, tend to perceive organic wine as substandard because pioneering organic vintners had trouble overcoming the challenges of shipping and storing wines without added sulfites. (Advocates now insist these problems have been solved.) Even if they would qualify, many high-end producers don't seek organic certification for fear that wine snobs will sneer at their fermented hippie juice. So ask your local wine merchant about any particular bottle. It may be covertly organic.

Prepare to do a spit-take, wine snobs. Oenophiles should care deeply about the environment, as the American wine grape may soon be an endangered species. While regions like Mosel and Loire stand to gain from a little global warming, one researcher estimates that climate change could wipe out 81 percent of premium wine-growing area in the United States by the end of the century.

The Green Lantern thanks Jim Fullmer of Demeter USA, Pablo Paster of TreeHugger.com and HARA, and Jonathan Russo of Organic Wine Journal.

Brian Palmer is Slate's chief explainer. He also writes How and Why and Ecologic for the Washington Post. Email him at explainerbrian@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.