Green Wine: What Does "Green" Mean? Does it Taste Better?

It goes without saying that “green” is the new red. Talk of “green” is all over the media and fast spreading to every industry – food, automotive, home improvement, and now wine. But when it comes to wine, does “green” really taste better? And, more importantly, what does it actually mean?

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A short answer to the first question is a resounding “yes” (more later on that). Answering the second, however, is more of a challenge, and really the starting point of this article. The fact is, unless you are a wine expert or have a good understanding of viticulture and winemaking, the answer to this question is downright confusing. Not only are there different levels of “green” (e.g., biodynamic vs. organic wine vs. organically grown grapes), but certification standards and processes vary from one country to another.

I first tried to understand “green” wine a few years ago when Chris Tavelli (who has since become my business partner) approached me about opening a “green” wine bar in San Francisco. Though interested in opening a wine bar at the time, I initially scoffed at the idea of dedicating it to organic wine. Aware of my reluctance (or ignorance, actually), Chris arrived at our first introductory meeting armed with facts and practical information on “green” wine. Throughout our meeting, I remained skeptical, but also noticed several names of wineries that I knew (and liked), which featured prominently on his list of “green” wineries. And of course, several years of legal practice (which I was hoping to “escape” by opening a wine bar) compelled me to rush home and research the issue until I fully understood “green” wine. Looking back, I am the first to admit that it was a greater challenge than expected because of the many different standards, techniques and certifications that fall within the purview of “green” wine.

Fast forward two years: Chris and I opened Yield Wine Bar, San Francisco’s first and only “green” wine bar, in 2006. We are exclusively dedicated to “green” wine, and often find ourselves explaining the various standards and definitions to our customers. We know firsthand how confusing it is and have decided to sort it out once and for all. So for wine drinkers who want to understand the meaning and benefits of “green” wine, a basic summary (with a slight bias toward California) follows.