When it comes to food, “going green” is a familiar concept. We stock our shelves with organic products and buy seasonal, sustainable produce at farmers’ markets. Though winemakers are now jumping on the green bandwagon—some even proclaiming that the more intensive methods required by sustainable and organic farming produce better, more nuanced fruit—for many consumers organic wines are still largely unexplored territory. Bringing together fellow wine geeks for an all-organic tasting party is a great way to discover the array of earth-friendly options out there. Here are some suggestions to get things started.
The most obvious candidates for your tasting party are bottles labeled “organic,” “biodynamic” or “sustainable.” The standards for these certificates are usually designated by bodies like the U.S.D.A. or private organizations like Demeter and LIVE. In brief, “organic” usually indicates that the product is grown without using complex man-made chemicals, particularly artificial fertilizers and pesticides. For a more detailed explanation of the differences among the various green labels, see A Green Glossary.
Bear in mind though that just because a certain wine lacks any certification, it may still be eligible for a green wine party roster. Many smaller, family-run wineries, particularly those in isolated areas of Europe, are often inherently green in method: they use rich, natural fertilizer as well as age-old techniques like crop rotation. They also maintain balanced ecosystems with farm animals rather than the more pricy pesticides and herbicides common among larger producers. Often, Spanish wines are a good bet as the Martian-like terrain in many growing areas there, particularly those for old vines, eliminates the need for these chemicals altogether.
Some Green Wineries From Around the World
Their Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are grown sustainably on the southern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Zinfandel from Bucklin’s organic Old Hill Ranch, one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in the U.S., is considered a poster child for Sonoma’s terrior.
An organic winery located in Mendocino, often dubbed California’s greenest county. All Saracina wines are varietal-specific though the winemakers also make several blends for the Atrea brand, including the particularly palatable, white Rhône-style blend, Atrea The Choir.
Long known for producing high-quality Syrah, the Clos Mimi Winery solely works with biodynamic, small family-run vineyards in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez.
At Finca Luzon’s old-vine vineyards in Jumilla, no pesticides are needed as no vine-damaging organisms thrive in the region’s stark terrain.
Badia a Coltibuono
An organic Tuscan winery established in the 11th century by monks.
This esteemed Burgundian négociant-éléveur produces Pinot and Chardonnay from sustainably-grown grapes.
The above list is, by no means, comprehensive; for other organic, sustainable and biodynamic wine recommendations, visit our online Buying Guide. Another option? Refillable wine bottles with silk-screen labels, like those sold at Pend d’Oreille (pon-doh-ray) Winery in Sandpoint, Idaho.
For eco-conscious entertainers, it’s become easier than ever to serve up fun, organic appetizers. And, as explained by Joey Repice, wine director at the Manhattan raw-food mecca Pure Food & Wine, the rules for organic food-and-wine pairings are virtually identical to those for non-organic couplings. “There’s no difference,” Repice confirms. But, he admits, there is often a lighter touch needed when pairing wines with vegan dishes. Whereas organic beef will pair well with a tough Malbec, the raw food at Pure Food & Wine requires a less commanding counterpart. “The [vegan] cuisine is lighter, it has more subtleties. You don’t want too much tannin, or wines that are too full-bodied, which will overpower the food.”
The following recipe for organic chickpea fries is from Deborah Gavito, chef at the New York City vegetarian eatery Counter. Made with organic and vegetarian ingredients, the fries are prepared ahead and flash-fried just before serving. To cut the richness of the “fries” and complement the subtle cumin, caraway, and coriander zing, Gavito recommends bright white wines with mineral and citrus notes, like Sauvignon Blanc from Patianna Organic Vineyards.
***Recipe: Chickpea Fries (Panisse)***
Adapted from Deborah Gavito of Counter
5 cups sifted chickpea flour, plus additional flour to dust
5 tablespoons olive oil
10 cups cold water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Â¼ tablespoon ground white pepper
Â¼ tablespoon ground caraway
Â¼ tablespoon ground cumin
Â¼ tablespoon ground coriander
vegetable oil, for frying
1. In a shallow pot, combine chickpea flour, olive oil, water, spices, and salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a low simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until thickened to a polenta-like consistency.
2. Line a half sheet pan (about 13″ x 18″) with parchment paper. Pour the mixture over the pan. Cover with more parchment paper, and set a second sheet pan on top. Weight the top with a heavy pot, and allow the mixture to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
3. The next day, cut the chickpea mixture into pieces 2 Â½ inches long by Â¼ inches wide (similar to a french fry shape). Dust the pieces with chickpea flour during the cutting process, then dust the pieces again with semolina flour.
4. Heat vegetable oil to 365 degrees, and blanch the chickpea pieces in the oil (about 2 minutes); the fries will cook about halfway through, but won’t acquire any color. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. (The chickpea fries now can be refrigerated until you’re ready to serve).
5. Just before serving, heat oil, and fry the chickpea pieces until golden brown and crisp (about 5 minutes).
The Invites: Spread the word without paper. Popular invitation sites like (Evite) offer a quick and reliable way to keep track of RSVPs and communicate with your guests. Simply sign up for free and invite away. Social networking sites like Facebook provide Event applications that let you invite online contacts. Otherwise, there’s always email.
The Décor: Create a bit of a regenerative ambience to go with the earth- (and palate-) friendly wines. Think elemental and minimal, the same sort of elegance you’d find in Japanese Ikebana or flower arranging. Some ideas to establish an eco-chic vibe:
· Do some late spring pruning. Blossoming branches look great vases.
· Use hard wood pieces like antique wood cutting boards or butcher blocks as service wear for appetizers and cheese. Stone or bamboo also makes great service pieces or trendy coasters for guests.
· Tie napkins and flatware with a simple string of raffia or a durable, long decorative grass. Napkin cuffs featuring grain or leaves are also nice.
· Instead of ordering flowers, which are shipped in gas-guzzling vehicles, source local flora from late spring bulbs to favorite wildflowers. Or make one rose bouquet (wherever it’s from) last by using the petals only, strewn across the table between votive candles.
· Consider vegetables and edibles as art. Artichokes, rainbow chard, fat bunches of grapes and a bowlful of strawberries make striking and functional centerpieces, especially if procured from local producers. Artisan bakeries offer gorgeous golden, crusty loaves and on special order can make decorative shapes for your party.
The Pros: If your event requires the experience of professional party planners, many businesses around the country offer eco-friendly expertise, particularly in NYC, Los Angeles and San Francisco. To find one, source a local Eco Business Directory, or look online at sites like Greenopia.
For the Cocktail Lovers: Read Happy Hour Harvests for information on organic spirits and creative mixed-drink recipes.