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How Green is Your Red?

By Toby Van Fleet
Portland Tribune

The Oregon Wine Board reports that some 23 percent of the state’s 15,600 acres planted in wine grapes in 2006 currently claim at least one of three sustainable certifications, which are issued by three different organizations: LIVE (which stands for “low input viticulture and ecology”), organic and biodynamic.

Following the paradigm of the first slow and then snowballing growth of the organic food market in the ’90s, sustainable wine just now is starting to slough off its reputation as, well, undrinkable. Like the first organic fruit that often was scarred or bruised, the first organic wines really weren’t that tasty. The focus was more on the growing practices than on the final product. That’s no longer the case. Stephany Boettner of the Oregon Wine Board says that consumers are beginning to realize that “quality comes first.” She adds, “If you have the quality and can be sustainable, that’s the goal.”First come the foodies. Then come the masses.

The foodies have arrived. In April, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov devoted an entire column to so-called “green” wine, even calling out Oregon’s Brick House Vineyards. Locally, it’s no surprise that Portlanders are catching on. In a town where the fast food burger joint boasts local beef and berries, the only mystery may be why it’s taken this long for the fuss over sustainable food to spread to its liquid accompaniments.

But aside from the eco-conscious desire to support green vintners, how savvy are customers when it comes to deciphering the truth behind the labels? Gwendolyn Wyard is a Processing Program Reviewer – and resident wine expert – at Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit agency that oversees organic certification and adherence for growers and processors all over the world. She says that the three common labels (LIVE, organic and biodynamic) do have their differences but that “all three organizations are working toward a more sustainable practice of farming.”

 

The Oregon Wine Board supplies a list of vineyards and wineries organized by the certifications they have earned.

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