Oregonians are a quirky group. We are fiercely independent, innovative, concerned about the environment, and above all else, we are passionate. It seems that Oregon wineries are into being green!
When I began looking at Oregon’s green wineries the first thing I needed to understand was, what people generally mean when they say green wine. A green wine has one or more of these traits: the grapes were organically grown, the vineyard used biodynamic practices, the wine is in environmental packaging, the wine is transported and shipped in environmentally friendly ways, and the winery that made the wines has an environmentally friendly infrastructure. A simpler statement is that a green wine is made in sustainable, organic, biodynamic, and/or natural ways.
When used to describe wine, the word sustainable means that the wine is made with a focus on three things: environmental stewardship, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Organic is a term with which people in general have become familiar. It means that no fungicides or pesticides are used in the vineyards. Crop rotation, cover crops, compost, and biological pest control reduce the need for both.
Both biodynamic and natural are terms that have meanings specific to the wine industry. Biodynamic wineries and vineyards treat the vineyard as a self-sustaining organism. Herbs, minerals, manure, and composts are used instead of their artificial counterparts. The well-being of all the integrated parts of the vineyard is considered in any action. Natural means that nothing is added and nothing is removed from the wine. The wine is made without additives, using native yeasts, and with only minimal or no filtration.
A number of organizations oversee and encourage green wine making in Oregon. There are currently 6 certificates available: Salmon-Safe, Live- Or LEED-Certified, Solar Power, Carbon-Neutral, Social Charities, and Organic/Biodynamic. One part of the work of the Oregon Environmental Council is to help the wineries reduce their carbon footprints. Low Input Viticulture & Enology, Inc. (LIVE) is among the oldest agencies, having begun certifying wineries in 1999. LIVE not only certifies that a vineyard/winery uses sustainable vineyard practices and actively works to be a good steward of the land, but it is also involved with issues concerning worker health and safety. In addition to its own certification, LIVE has become an umbrella group for Salmon Safe (which certified its first vineyard in 1996) and Oregon Certified Sustainable. LIVE also administers the Carbon Reduction Challenge. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifies that strategies were incorporated into the vineyard and winery that protect human and environmental health. These strategies might include ways to save water, be more energy efficient, and maintain indoor environmental quality. Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture through sustainable approaches to agricultural production, processing, handling, and marketing.
Oregon wineries are serious about being green. They are making exciting changes that will have a lasting impact on Oregon.