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Jun 10, 2008 01:40 PM

How important does "green" figure in your wine buying decision?

I recently attended at a San Francisco Professional Food Society networking event at Yield. Yield is a new wine bar here in San Francisco that emphasizes the “green” side of wine. Here is a description from their website:

“Yield is the first "green" wine bar in San Francisco...We are committed to supporting sustainable winemaking and agriculture, as well as family owned and operated wineries. All of the wines featured on our rotating wine list are environmentally friendly — they are made from grapes that are farmed organically and biodynamically. While some of our featured wineries even receive certification, all of them are as focused on making the best wine possible as they are on making it in the most environmentally conscious way.”

It made me wonder, how does “green” or organic factor when people buy wine? Is this just a San Francisco phenomenon? As someone who buys all organic meats and produce, organic is not a huge factor for me when it comes to wine. Many wines on the market today are organic or a product of sustainable farming, they just don't put it on the label. For me, “Is it good” comes first, then “Does it have value,” and “Does it come from a small production winemaker,” and finally, “Is it ‘green’?” I would say it is definitely on my radar, but would not sacrifice flavor for it.

What about you? How does “green” figure in your wine buying decision?

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  1. Only if I'm buying Vinho Verde . . .

    OK, a slightly more serious answer.

    While I agree with your "order of priorities" -- 1) "Is it good,” 2) “Does it have value [QPR],” 3) “Does it come from a small production winemaker,” and 4) “Is it ‘green’?” -- I have to add that #1 and #2 substantially are ahead of, and carry more weight than, #3 and #4.

    It isn't that I don't give a $#!+ if the winery is a family-owned and/or a small scale producer, or if the winery is "green," but it barely registers. The problem is that it isn't like looking at two identical pairs of running shoes, one made with child labor in __________, and the other made in America by well-paid owner-employees. The problem is that here is a (e.g.) a Napa Valley Chardonnay, and here is another Napa Valley Chardonnay (or two different Côtes-du-Rhônes, two Austrian Gruner Veltliners, Alsatian Rieslings, Douro reds or, indeed, two Vinho Verdes) , but they taste different from one another and I definitely PREFER one over the other.

    Now, coincidentally, it turns out more often than not that the wine I prefer turns out to be from a family-owned winery rather than a large négociant or one owned by a multinational corporation, but that is decidedly the third of these four criteria.

    As for "green," let me rename "green" to "biodynamic," "IPM," or some similar method of obtaining higher-quality grapes from the vineyard, and I'm even happier! But if I don't like the way it tastes, I won't consider buying it; and if it doesn't have good QPR, I'm not going to buy it . . .


    7 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Vinho Verde! Oh man, I did not see that one coming, but I should have. Good call, Jason. I got a laugh, and sprayed Sonoma (AV) Chard on my laptop's keyboard. Do I send the repair bill to you? [Grin]


      1. re: Bill Hunt

        I was all ready to make a green "vegetal" crack in my own wise-ass way. Oh, I know, sad.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Yes, but California viticulture has indeed conquered the dreaded "Monterey veggies"

          1. re: zin1953

            Do you mean the "green" Cabs from Chalone, "A-Frame?" I still have some around, and need to share it in a "counter-point" situation.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Those, but even before that, some of Mirassou's Cabernets from the early 1960s . . .

      2. re: zin1953

        >> Only if I'm buying Vinho Verde . . .

        You got something against Grüner Veltliner?

        1. re: tmso

          Awww, didn't you notice I included GV in my original post?

      3. For me, it's about the taste of the wine, especailly with my food. I am not one to read all of the fine print, and do not do a spreadsheet with my food choices. Same for the wine. It's all about the taste.

        Now, if the operation is "Green," I have no problems, but would not seek these out, nor would I purchase/consume wines just because of that label. However, going back to another environment buzz-word, "Organic," I found that most of the wines just did not taste all that good, especially against similar wines from more "traditional" producers. This is not an indictment on "Organic, or "Green," but it comes down to my bottom line - taste.

        Interesting thread though,


        1. I am not the sort of wine drinker who seeks out "organic" or "green" wines, either. However, as to your question regarding the prevalence of the green wine phenomenon, family-owned wineries making limited-production biodynamic wines are all the rage in Italy.

            1. Many many wineries are organic and don't ever mention it.

              Certainly, being organic or biodynamic is no guarantee of better flavor.
              Lots of bad-tasting biodynamic wines out there.

              Flavor, first. Price, second. I don't think of much else after that. I'm impressed if the wines are farmed sustainably, but don't seek that out.

              2 Replies
              1. re: maria lorraine

                I was going to make this point. Actually, even in my limited scope I know of two myself. Why don't they say it? first, it's a pain going through the hoops with the government. Second, "organic" wine is still seeing by consumers as gimmick wine that focuses on being organic rather than tasting good, as was the case with the first "organic" wines.

                As to organic wines? If I'm going to spend my money on something, it better deliver. Like everyone else, I want a good wine first, organic second. Otherwise, why buy the wine? We made the same arguments in a recent thread for non-alcoholic wines. I think what we want is our favorite wines to go organic. For me it is a concern because of the level of toxins stored in grape skins, and as we saw with the brunellos, can make it to the wine itself.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I had considered that aspect. There are probably many organic, etc., wines that I love, but just do not realize it. When I commented about the ones that I did not enjoy, these were ones that touted that aspect highly. I really did try to find something to love in them, but all, that I have sampled over the years.

                  Still, I stand by my earlier comment - it's about the taste. I respect any producer, who is "green," and makes great wine, but I will not actively seek it out, or take compromises, i.e. "green" gets no bonus points in my evaluations. Nice, when you find it, but I buy/drink for taste.