It’s easy being green, say these producers of sustainable and other earth-friendly wines.
While April is devoted to all things earth friendly, the 22nd day of the month is designated as Earth Day, a global celebration of sustainability and planet consciousness. What better day to pop open a bottle of bubbly from a producer that’s “earth first”? Here are a few from France who truly have boots on the ground when it comes to environmental stewardship.
Champagne’s severe climate and growing conditions make it notoriously difficult to farm organically, but a number of producers are finding ways to go green. The Association des Champagnes Biologiques reported 114 organically certified winegrowers and houses in its membership and a pipeline of nearly a dozen more candidates. Regionally, the Observatoire Régional de l’Agriculture Biologique en Champagne-Ardenne reports nearly 2 percent of the region’s vineyards are certified organic.
Legacy producer (1760) Champagne Lanson offers “Le Green Label,” produced from organic and biodynamic vineyards at Domaine de la Malmaison. It’s the only Champagne to have all three organic labels: Certified Agriculture Biologique, Demeter (biodynamic) and Bio Suisse Organic. The blend of two crus is Pinot Noir driven (50%), which gives it a black-fruit tone, but then plays well with the progressive ripe orchard and tropical fruits. Dry palate underlaid with a creamy richness, long-lasting mousse.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier operates under France’s Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE) certification, a three-tiered system that encourages farms and vineyards to focus on increasing biodiversity, low intervention and management efficiencies in water and fertilizer. Made of 100% Pinot Noir, the Cuvée Rosé offers fresh-pressed raspberry and sliced summer strawberries, a tinge of rich darker fruit—cherry or blueberry. This is a fuller, richer style that goes from aperitif to the dinner table.
Champagne Bollinger, the wine preferred by British secret agents, also cultivates its vines under the HVE certification and the latest release of its signature Grande Année (vintage 2014) is a demonstration of tradition meeting up with the [environmental] times. Made of 61% Pinot Noir and 39% Chardonnay, it expresses lemon and brioche in a full rich style—a “Bolly” hallmark—supported by mouth-cleansing minerality. Also not to be missed: its well-structured Grande Année Rosé 2014, with a bright saline character, along with pithy pink grapefruit, orange peel and some bing cherry notes. More fruity than autolytic.
Champagne Billecart-Salmon has been certified HVE and Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne (VDC) since 2017, and has nearly 25 acres in organic conversion. In 2022, it created a biodiversity reserve at its Clos Sainte-Hilaire parcel, a single acre of old Pinot Noir with a particular focus on ancestral farming methods using only sheep and horses. Here, you’ll also find bees at work, along with other beneficial flora, fauna and insects. In its Brut Rosé, Chardonnay has a slight edge in the blend over the other two traditional Champagne grapes, keeping the juicy, orchard-fruit flavors in check with a bit of mineral finesse. A bit of dried orange rind gives it a final fresh finish.
Farther north in France, the region of Alsace is naturally adapted to sustainable viticulture, with a dry sunny climate and low pressure from pests and disease, thus making it an early pioneer in organic farming. Indeed, 35% of the vineyard area is certified organic or biodynamic and/or is in conversion. The region specializes in Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method of second fermentation in the bottle. The vineyards at Domaine Dirler-Cadé are certified organic and biodynamic, and the estate is particularly known for its Crémant. The Brut Nature is a blend of 60% Pinot Gris, 30% Auxerrois, 10% Riesling, and offers light brioche on the nose, pear and green apple on the palate, but is really driven by its crisp saline-inflected mineral backbone. The rosé, made of 100% Pinot Noir, is bone dry with elevated notes of cherry, wild strawberry and a twist of blood orange and exotic spice; lovely fizz.