Green wine update, Part II

The market for organic products United States has grown more than 25-fold in the last two decades, so it's not surprising that wineries have joined the move toward more eco-friendly products. But there are two important things to understand in discussing eco-friendly wine.

First, it's not as easy to identify a green wine ? which can fall into one of four categories ? as it is an organic potato, which is either organic or it isn't. Second, no one has quite figured out whether eco-friendly wines taste better because they're environmentally sound or because better winemakers use those techniques.

I wrote a story for the Star-Telegram newspaper in Fort Worth last month discussing just those things. I'll post an edited version here in two parts: Thursday, what defines a green wine; today, some thoughts about green wine quality and some wines to try.

Green wine is nothing new. Bio-dynamic farming is almost 100 years old, the Romans and Greeks made wine with organic grapes, and even the European wine business was mostly organic until chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers were invented in the last century. What's new is the emphasis on these practices, part of the slow food and local food movements of the past decade. A 2007 survey by The Hartman Group found that more than three-quarters of respondents said ?it ?s important to buy environmentally friendly products ? and that they were nearly four times as likely to pay a 10 percent premium for sustainable products.

Despite this, eco-friendly wines aren't necessarily more expensive than their conventional counterparts, which is in stark contrast to other organic products, where an organic tomato may cost 10 percent or more than a conventional tomato. There are several reasons for this; probably the most important is that the wholesale market for organic grapes isn't mature enough to support a price premium, says Cliff Bingham of Bingham Family Vineyards in West Texas, who has raised organic grapes.

So what is available when it comes to eco-friendly wines? Most of the Bonny Doon bio-dynamic wines are worthwhile, and I've reviewed the syrah and sangiovese. The next four are also worth a taste:

? Vida Organica Rose, made with organic grapes ($10, purchased): This Argentine rose is one of my favorites — bone dry, with strawberry fruit, low alcohol, and a stony finish. It's the kind of wine to keep around for porch sipping, summer salads and even barbecue.

? Girasole Zinfandel, made with organic grapes ($13, sample): Look for a more traditional zinfandel, with less alcohol, more black pepper, and less jamminess. It still has plenty of cherry fruit, though.

? Lamura Bianco, made with organic grapes, ($10, purchased): Some of the best wine values in the world come from Sicily, the home of this white wine blend. It's a seafood wine, with a bit of citrus and the pleasant acidity that is a trademark of Italian wines.

? Benziger Carneros Chardonnay, sustainably farmed, ($16, sample): The Benziger family has been making green wine for as long as anyone, and this white shows how well they do it. It's balanced and food friendly, which can't be said of all California chardonnays.

For more on green wine:
? Green wine
? Green wine, Part I: What is it?
? Green wine, Part II: How does it taste?
? Wine terms: Sulfites

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