As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it's a good time to examine the state of organic winemaking. First, there is a difference between organic wine and wine made from organic grapes. Both must follow the rules of organic farming in the vineyard, but the former cannot have any sulfites added to the wine after fermentation. Since sulfites stabilize wine so that it can travel long distances without breaking down, "made with organic grapes" is becoming the overwhelming preference for winemakers who wish to work organically.
Such is the case with Yellow + Blue Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($12, Bacchus Importers Ltd.). Juicy citrus and an inviting mineral finish mark this wine from Chile as an exceptional example of an affordable Sauvignon Blanc. As a bonus, it's packaged in a one-liter Tetra Pak (a recyclable carton), so you get more than the traditional 750 milliliters a bottle. Tetra Pak accounts for 2 percent of the wine's shipping weight, as opposed to between 29-40 percent for a traditional bottle. The result is a carbon footprint half that of a glass wine bottle, and that's an innovation we can all get behind.
Not everyone is ready to drink wine out of a box. If you prefer using a corkscrew, check out Quivira Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2008 ($27, The Country Vintner). The fruit grown on the Quivira Estate is farmed biodynamically (a form of agriculture that adheres to stricter rules than organic farming), and the rest of the fruit is sourced from either organically farmed or sustainably farmed sites. The result is a rich amalgam of red fruits like raspberry and strawberry, but also darker notes like black plum and espresso—for a dense and satisfying mouthful of Zinfandel.
If your sweet tooth needs attention, then consider a bottle of Avondale Reserve Muscat Blanc 2007 ($17, Noble Vintners). This South African queen drips with honey and apricot flavors, as well as a hint of lemon drop. It's delightfully toothsome without being too heavy and works well with rich blue cheeses.