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7 Sustainable Wine Trends for 2011

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“Wine is sure proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Even Benjamin Franklin understood that along “early to bed, early to rise,” humans also need the sensual pleasures of wine in their lives. New sustainable practices have made your glass of vino even more guilt-free, and in 2011 we will continue to see conscious farming flourish from the bottle to the grape.

When considering sustainable wine trends, there are a couple of things to remember:

First, any trend in the conventional wine world is also happening over on the sustainable side of things. Secondly, sustainable wine is itself a trend, and will no doubt continue to grow as more and more consumers begin to ask questions about their food and beverage sources.

In 2011 there are several notable trends when it comes to sustainable wine.

Dessert wines are making a comeback: These sweet, Port-style syrups are dark, fortified and more versatile than you might think. With giant bouquets and fruit on the nose, many dessert wines today have a zingy freshness that pairs well not only with desserts like chocolate cake, but also with cheese dishes like gourmet pizza or Swiss raclette.

One to try: 2000 Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles, Clement Klur (Alsace, France)

Another huge trend in the beverage world is locally produced wine, and in particular urban wineries, which go beyond the tasting room to include in-house grape processing as well. A weekend in Napa is nice, but when you can’t make a trip out to the country, then indulge in this new and convenient trend.

One to try: Thompkin Cellars in Santa Barbara, a family-run winery that crushes, ferments and bottles small-lot grapes from around the county on the premises.

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Also on the hot tip of the world: wines from South America. Robust bottles from Chile, Argentina and even Uruguay are not only getting better every year, they’re getting cheaper. South African wines continue to increase in popularity as well, but when shopping for wine from these countries, be sure to purchase certified fair-trade wines.

One to try: NV Heaven on Earth sweet wine (South Africa) – fair-trade and organic.

The lower prices on these wines are a good match for Americans’ thinner wallets, with most drinkers shopping for wines that cost less than $20 per bottle.

Wine producers are backing away slightly from the mellowing Pinot Noir phenomenon, sparked of course by the movie Sideways several years ago. Though a delicious brew no doubt, Pinot Noir’s oversaturation of the market and larger-scale farming technologies have led the pendulum to swing the other way. Now many wine-producing regions are moving towards a more diverse selection of styles; however it will no doubt be a while before Merlot can live down the famous scene.

Wine producers are finally moving to un-oaked Chardonnays, though the verdict is still out on whether anything will help this dismally unhip wine’s image.

One to try: 90 Cono Sur 2009 Organic Chardonnay Valle de San Antonio, Chile

Above all else, drink the wines you love and remember to speak with your wallet in favor of sustainable farming practices and fair trade wines. Cheers!

Snub wine for cocktails? We've got 2011 Cocktail Trends too!

image: timsnell

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