I was at a wonderful dinner last night celebrating the U.S. release of the Eccoci line of wines from Blau Nou, a winery in northeast Spain that has been certified Carbon Zero by ZeroCO2. One of the diners asked me how carbon neutral and organic wines were related - a question I'm hearing quite a bit as many types of businesses are becoming 'carbon neutral' or buying carbon credits to offset their footprint.
There are two main reason for growing grapes organically. The first, and the thing people tend to focus on, is the farming methods are more beneficial to the planet. The second is the resulting fruit should be better than if they were farmed conventionally. I've spoken with winemakers who became organic specifically after growing a portion of a vineyard organically and tasting those grapes against their less-green neighbors.
This is one of the reasons many organic winemakers keep their practices off the label. 'Organic' becomes the focus rather than the quality of the final product. They believe growing organic is the way to achieve that quality, but they don't want the method to outshine the wine.
Being carbon nuetral is a great practice, but it's not one that will show up in the wine glass - the quality is not directly affected by it. Manuel Lardeux, the vineyard manager for Blau Nos who joined us for the dinner, has to account for the carbon impact his plane trip to New York had on the environment. Great for the earth as a whole, and for all of us who enjoyed his company, but the grapes are unaware of this.
Does that mean carbon neutral isn't really important for a winery? Not at all. There are a lot of people who think biodynamics has no affect, but still love the wines. They might argue that a winemaker who is paying that much attention to a system is focussing on a lot of other important details as well, and making stronger choices along the way.
The same would hold true for thinking about your environmental impact, carbon or otherwise. Looking at how your farming affects your land and then taking the trouble to get certified are both important steps and lead down a path of greater care and stewardship.
Blau Nou's vineyards, for example, are hand-harvested and farmed sustainably. 'Sustainable' has no set definition, so a lot of wineries may toss the word around, but it's easier to believe it's being taken more seriously by a winery that is documenting their other greener choices. The Blau Nou winery is surrounded by Les Gavarres, a natural park reserve, so it's good to know they are thinking about their impact on their surroundings.