Designations of Viticultural Wizardry
Welcome to the Üllo Blog! This is our inaugural post, and we couldn’t be more excited to give you the inside track on everything Üllo. We’ll be focused on documenting our journey to create the most exciting wine accessory ever, but we’ll also be posting about our travels, wine tips and knowledge, and general company shenanigans. And we would be remiss if we didn’t include the occasional photo of our company mascot, Izzy. Please don’t forget to check us out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Vimeo.
Behind every great team is a great dog. In our case it's Izzy, Üllo's illustrious Chief Executive "Paw"ficer.
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One of the most frequent questions people ask us at events is, “How do I know a bottle of wine is good?” Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for finding a stellar bottle of wine, but we’ve got a tip on how to consistently find delicious wines of all types: sustainability certifications. There are a growing number of certifications that wineries and vineyards can achieve to show their dedication to sustainability. Some focus strictly on the vineyard practices while others take into account the winery and the nature of the entire operation. All of these demonstrate a level of commitment to sustainability that we believe is a good indicator of overall quality, whether it’s a $10 or $50 bottle. While we can’t guarantee you’ll like wines with these certifications, we’re confident that they’ll lead you to a high-quality, sustainably produced bottle of vino.
Here at Üllo, our raison d’etre is sulfite-free wine. We believe that the best wine starts in the vineyard and is at its heart a product of the land. Most of the wine industry’s sustainability certifications focus on sustainable vineyard practices, and rightly so, but we’ve also included a few that touch on winery practices, which are equally important.
Organic Wine (worldwide)
Wine bottles with the certified organic symbol are not as common as you might think in the United States because no sulfites can be added to the wine during the winemaking process. This is unique to the United States, as certified organic wines in Canada and Europe may have added sulfites. Unfortunately these bottles are usually relegated to a small bottom shelf at wine shops and generally need to be consumed soon after their bottling date. They may contain added preservatives, like potassium sorbate, to extend their shelf life.
Made with Organic Grapes (worldwide)
You are much more likely to find Made with Organic Grapes on the front or back label of a wine than a certified organic wine. This designation ensures that the vineyard where the grapes are grown is certified organic. Winemakers may do as they wish to the grapes after they are harvested, and sulfites may be added as well. There is a wide selection of these wines available today, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding them at your local wine shop.
Biodynamics is one of the most exciting sustainability movements in the wine industry today. While it still only comprises a small portion of vineyards worldwide, the certification is growing in popularity. The Austrian scientist Rudulph Steiner is generally recognized as starting the movement in the 1920s after he gave a series of lectures about the topic. The Biodynamic Association describes biodynamic farming as “deep organic… a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.”
Nicolas Joly and other spirited European winemakers were some of the first to adopt biodynamic agriculture in the wine industry but the movement has gone global and you can now find certified biodynamic vineyards in New Zealand, Austria, California, Australia, Oregon, Spain, and many more countries. Some of the most famous wine estates around the world are certified biodynamic, including Domaine Romanee-Conti, Clos de la Coulee de Serrant, Bonny Doon, Zind-Humbrecht, Chateau Beaucastel, and many others. If you’ve got a great wine shop at your disposal, don’t be shy in asking for a biodynamic wine.
LOCAL SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFICATIONS
There are a number of other, more localized certifications for wine regions around the world, a few of which we’ve listed below:
Napa Green (Napa County, California) – Napa Green is a comprehensive sustainability certification available to all winegrowers and vintners in Napa County.
Some of Napa’s biggest names are participating in this program and the program is aiming for 100% participation by 2020. With more than 100 wineries participating and more than 65,000 acres certified through this program, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a bottle with the logo. http://napagreen.org/
LIVE (Pacific Northwest, USA)
LIVE is one of the few programs that certifies vineyards and wineries, requires greenhouse gas measurement and reduction measures, and is partnered with Salmon-Safe to ensure vineyard inputs are not hazardous to local aquatic systems. LIVE certifies more than 45 wineries and 7,000 acres of vineyards in Oregon and Washington. https://livecertified.org/
Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (New Zealand)
New Zealand has some impressive sustainability chops. 94% of New Zealand’s vineyard acreage is certified through this countrywide sustainability certification and the other 6% is either certified organic or biodynamic. With the Kiwis consistently producing some of the highest quality wine in the world, you can rarely go wrong buying wine from New Zealand. http://www.nzwine.com/sustainability
Vigneron Independant (France) – Last but not least is the one of the most interesting wine estate certifications. Vigneron Independant certifies small and independent winemakers across France that represent “authentic wines and personalities.” Amongst a number of things, certified wineries must “respect the soil, harvest their own grapes, bottle in their own cellar… and always look to improve their operations.” The Üllo Team has found that these bottles are full of character and are generally great values as well. Find out more below:
What do you look for when buying wine? Do you have any tips for finding a great bottle of wine? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.
The Üllo Team