​‘I’m a Sommelier, and This Is What To Look for When Shopping for Sustainable Wine’

When you sip a glass of wine, what do you notice first? Maybe it has hints of fruit or an earthy flavor, or maybe it just tastes like wine to you. Whatever your palate prefers, what you may not notice (or even think about) is how that wine got from grape to glass.

But the sustainability of your sip is definitely something you should be thinking about—according to Simone Boone, certified sommelier and owner of Apogee Wine Bar—whether you're a total oenophile or your knowledge of wine begins and ends with "red" and "white."

"Regardless if you’re a wine expert or not, we should all care about being more eco-conscious," Boone says. "Shifting to a more sustainable way of life is just the right thing to do, but especially if you are making something that comes from the Earth. Caring for the soil, environment, and having a sustainable mindset is essential to the longevity of wine industry. Why would we not take care of the land and the people who are working to preserve Mother Nature?"

Sounds logical enough, right? So if you want to make your next wine night a little more sustainable, Boone is sharing her tips on what to look for in eco-friendly wine—starting with one of her sustainable labels of choice: Cambria Estate Winery.

The woman-owned winery has held certifications in sustainability for 10 years and counting, and if it's sommelier-approved, you know it's legit (ahem, Cambria has also received 45 scores of 90+ points in the past five years from top wine publications around the world).

“Sustainability is integral to everything we do in our vineyards and cellars,” says Katie Jackson, second generation proprietor and senior vice president of corporate social responsibility at Cambria Estate Winery. “All of our sustainability efforts have been connected to the principle that we must protect and improve the environment, take care of our employees and communities, and help our winery continue to make delicious wines for generations to come.”

Keep reading for more expert intel on picking out an eco-friendly wine, and keep this guide handy during your next trip to the store. (Cheese and chocolate pairings not included.)

Scroll down for your guide to shopping eco-friendly wine.

1. Look for certification labels

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a wine by its label... sort of. Boone says to look for certifications and callouts like “sustainably-made” when you’re browsing the shelves of otherwise identical-looking bottles, and Jackson concurs.

"If you’re in a grocery store or wine shop and aren’t sure whether the wine is sustainable, the best way to identify one is by looking for the California Certified Sustainable logo, like the one depicted on our Cambria wines," Jackson says. That's how you know you're getting the cream of the crop among eco-friendly wines.

2. Talk to a wine pro

If you're a bit hesitant to use only the label as your guide (Boone admits that sometimes even the prettiest labels don't equate to the tastiest wine), lean on experts to guide you—whether you're specifically asking about sustainability or wondering what to serve with dinner.

“There is no shame in asking someone who works in a store a few questions," Boone says. "And if you’re lucky to have a great wine bar near you—like Apogee Wine Bar—you can always come in and sample something.” Cambria Estate Winery also recently completed a total revamp of its tasting room, which sounds like a great reason to plan a trip to Santa Barbara if you ask us. Sample a glass, visit a certified sustainable vineyard, and learn about wine? We’ll cheers to that.

3. Research the wine’s history

Now that you've been pointed in the right direction toward wines you will actually find tasty, the next step is to do a little research into the story behind each bottle. “People want to drink a great glass of wine first, but they also want to feel good about it,” Boone says.

More importantly, look for eco-friendly answers to big questions. “Who is the winemaker? Is it family-owned? What unique things do they do in the vineyard or in the cellar?” Boone asks.

On that front, the family-owned Cambria Estate Winery takes pride in utilizing innovative practices so that the vintners are able to grow the highest-quality fruit possible. “We deploy a lot of sustainability practices in our cellars to help us conserve and save water, power our winery operations through clean, renewable energy sources, and many other environmentally friendly approaches,” says Jackson.

4. Browse by region

"One thing to always remember is that wine is an agricultural product, so everything you admire most about that glass of wine—the aromas, flavors, connecting you to its terroir—it all starts in the vineyards," Jackson says.

The vineyards are defined by the region in which they are situated, which is why Boone's final tip is to consider where your bottle of eco-friendly vino came from—because often the region will be a clue into whether the culture of that place values sustainability.

"If you’re shopping from 'Old World' regions like Italy, finding call-outs on the label are very rare because so many winemakers have been doing things the 'sustainable way' for hundreds of years, and they feel no need to call it out," Boone says. "Whereas 'New World' regions like South Africa, Oregon, or Santa Barbara are differentiating themselves and making sure consumers know their region is a quality place by communicating what’s most important to them right on the label."

Next time you fill up your glass, propose a toast to certified sustainable sips that are good for the environment—and great for happy hour.

Want to sip on some certified sustainable wine? Click here to find a bottle of Cambria near you. Well+Good readers can also score 20 percent off all Cambria Estate Winery orders over $100 with code WELLANDGOOD.

Top photo: Cambria Estate Winery

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