Organic food products have become popular in recent years, lauded for their impressive health and substantial environmental benefits. And organic wine, for that matter, is no exception.
Revolutionizing the way we produce and appreciate wine, organic vintners have been leading the way to sustainable wines. Although getting back to a more natural form of wine production without modern over-processing is one of their motivations, a major concern for organic vintners is the ecological impact of traditional wine production.
Typical wine producers usually use a substantial amount of water, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to ensure their crop produces enough yield to satisfy their business demands. Although the grapevines used in wine production are known to be quite hardy and resistant to drought, with minimal water, they produce minimal yields.
Areas such as California, where droughts are not uncommon, use artificial irrigation systems to support their vineyards during periods of low rainfall. Despite not being the thirstiest of crops, this water consumption means vineyards put more pressure on local water reserves.
With regard to synthetic chemicals, non-organic vineyards also use considerable quantities of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as insecticides and fungicides. As grapevines are more prone to pests than other crops, they require stronger and more extensive usage of pesticides than crops like almonds, tomatoes, or even table grapes.
However, these chemicals do not remain on the plantation. With rainfall, water carries these chemicals to the water table and disperses them through the local environment, disturbing wildlife and the nearby ecology. Additionally, these chemicals may have negative effects on the plantation workers and neighboring communities.
Organic wine strives to eliminate or reduce its impact on the environment, an ambition they have managed to fulfill.
Like other organic plantations, organic vineyards eliminate or dramatically reduce their usage of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. However, instead of using synthetic chemicals, organic vineyards use more natural substitutes.
For example, instead of using harsh synthetic pesticides, which leech into the environment and disturb the local wildlife, organic farmers may use tree oils or extracts that have a natural pesticidal effect.
This allows them to get the benefits of a pesticide without wreaking havoc on the environment. A similar substitution method with natural alternatives is used for herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, as well.
Although chemical leeching may seem like a local issue, it can influence entire regions and cause long-term issues in plants, animals, and humans. Some agricultural chemicals have been linked to our global declining insect populations, as well as birth defects, cancers, and other serious health issues. Despite these concerns, regulations for many of these chemicals remain relaxed and take committed activism to change. Reducing the usage of these harmful chemicals is one of the primary environmental benefits of organic wine.
However, you may wonder about water consumption. If vineyards need substantial water consumption to produce reasonable yields, then surely even organic vineyards will need a similar level of water consumption? Surprisingly, this is not the case. Instead of using synthetic fertilizers that often come in the form of nutrient-dense beads and liquids that are dispersed throughout the vineyard, organic vintners must use a different approach.
Their simple solution to this problem is organic fertilizers, which utilize manure, compost, mineral additives, and decaying plant matter. Although quite nutrient-dense, organic fertilizers help build the soil and develop the earth. This richer soil holds onto water better and makes organic vineyards more resistant to heat, droughts, and other disturbances.
Aside from the ecological benefits, organic vineyards also offer notable humanitarian benefits as well. In addition to preventing pollution and chemical leeching that would affect neighboring communities, organic vineyards also offer them more employment opportunities. In many regions, organic vineyards must adhere to strict humanitarian guidelines outlining how they must treat their workers in order to maintain their ‘organic’ status.
Although currently accounting for a small percentage of global wine sales, organic wine is quickly becoming a mainstream product. Consumers are becoming more invested in supporting companies and business practices that put the environment first, and this is reflected in their purchases. Organic wine is projected to continue growing and then eventually outpacing more traditional and environmentally negligent wines.
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