Fine wine lovers searching for something more sustainable to sip on will find a new one-stop shop at ConsciousWine.com. Earth-conscious West Coast producers including Ambyth, Brooks, Cowhorn, Dominio IV, Lumos and Michel-Schlumberger are among the first wineries to set up shop on the new site devoted exclusively to estates that perform as well on the ground as they do in the glass.
To make the grade, vintners are required to create vital, great-tasting wines from sustainably-farmed, organically-grown grapes, and engage in one or more of ConsciousWine’s 12 Practices, ranging from biodiversity to water conservation to good worker policies to family farming. The comprehensive green goals are designed to showcase the best in class of the emerging holistic wine market.
Wineries are invited to set up shop on ConsciousWine.com only after Jeff Weissler, the company’s affable online wine steward whose mug makes up its logo, has personally tasted their wines and walked the estate with the vintner to verify performance on ConsciousWine’s 4 Principles and one or more of its 12 Practices. ConsciousWine customers are guaranteed that all wines available for sale in its shops are from estates that farm exclusively with OMRI-approved products. Many go much further and carry Demeter’s BiodynamicÂ® brand, which represents some of the most rigorous and respected sustainability standards in the field.
ConsciousWine’s standard “2-buck-a-bottle” winery-direct shipping for customers in the continental U.S. brings down a long-standing price barrier to buying wine online. Winery-direct shipping also offers the added value of significantly reducing the carbon footprint for door-to-door delivery of fine wine. At the same time, it allows quality-conscious winemakers the opportunity to closely watch the national forecast and ship during optimal weather windows in milder shoulder seasons, a best practice that helps protect fine wine from extreme temperatures in transit.
Philanthropy is at the heart of ConsciousWine’s business model. Four percent of all sales are set aside to fund a generous giving program where the company’s community of customers decide how donations are disbursed. Customers can choose between organizations such as Demeter, The Cornucopia Institute, Habitat for Humanity, San Francisco Food Bank, American Cancer Society, Lions Club International Foundation, and The Pachamama Alliance among others. They can also recommend to have their favorite non-profit groups and community organizations added to the list of choices.
With no legal definition of sustainability, and more certification systems than a connoisseur can keep track of, ConsciousWine aims to help confused consumers make sense of what green wine really means, both on the ground and in the glass. The website offers a directory, videos, podcasts and a blog featuring extensive one-on-one winemaker interviews with the brand’s insatiably curious frontman Jeff Weissler, better known to his growing fanbase as “The ConsciousWine Guy.” Weissler’s educational editorial features multimedia field reports that give wine buyers a first-hand look behind the labels at leading holistic estates.
“Conscious consumers demand to know where their food and wine comes from and how it was produced,” shares Jeff Weissler, co-founder of ConsciousWine. “With a video camera, audio recorder and notebook in hand, I take wine lovers on extensive virtual tours of featured estates, introduce them to the winemakers, and let them see with their own eyes that wines available in our shop live up to our name. I’m staking my name, and face, on it.”
The market has spoken, and Earth-conscious wines are on the ascendency. During the last decade sales of certified-organic wine in the U.S. more than doubled. A 2009 survey of more than 1,600 professional chefs by the American Culinary Federation included organic wine in the top 20 culinary trends. In another trend that defied the economic downturn overall U.S. wine consumption has been growing steadily and last year surpassed France for the first time in history.