What is Planet Friendly Wine & the Happy planet Tribe

The Happy Planet Tribe is modelled on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA ) and you may have heard of that if you're a Slow Food fan or a recent immigrant from Europe or the USA...where it's a popular way for farmers & producers to connect with the public. Consumers who join a CSA commit to buying a certain amount of fresh produce for the year (in advance), so that the producer has some certainty that their efforts in producing organic & sustainable food do not go to waste, and so they have a future in food production. In return the consumer gets fantastic fresh produce for a fair price delivered on a regular basis. You can read more about it below, but for now you probably want to know what it means and what's in it for you, right?  In a nutshell, we've adopted this model so that you - as a member of our Happy Planet Tribe - can order our delicious organically grown wine for a great price in return for your commitment for a 12-month period. We're calling it the Tractor Seat Happy Planet Club - it's a bit like a wine club...only better!  It's free to join plus there's lots of added benefits too, including substantial discounts, free Wine Flights and member parties. We will also keep you informed throughout the growing season on conditions and what is going on in the vineyard.  Click here to delve into the Oranje Tractor offer or see below for some history about CSA and how it works. Read on for more info about being planet friendly.

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Planet/Eco-Friendly Wine

The environmental impact of wine production is larger than you might think, and is a global cause for concern. However in recent decades, winemakers across the globe have been adjusting their processes in order to make more sustainable wines. Planet/Eco-friendly or environmentally friendly wines are terms that are used to define the categories of wine that claim to not be as harmful to the environment. Some of these categories of wine, such as organic & biodynamic are regulated and/or audited in the certification process. Because certification is costly and time-consuming, some wine producers don't undertake the certification process. Others have been growing grapes organically or biodynamically for so long that they don't feel a certification is necessary. Others (like “natural” or “raw”) are yet to receive agreement on the terminology and requirements. Either way, such producers - like ourselves - are interested in reducing our environmental footprint either just for the benefit of the planet and its critters (including us) or for reasons of purity and taste. Additionally, here at Oranje Tractor, we very focussed on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon neutrality) and increasing energy efficiency.

Organic

Among other things, organic wine production means that the grapes and all other ingredients used to make the wine (like yeast) must be certified organic. Organic viticulture can draw on both traditional and modern farming practices but the use of certain products or practices, such as synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides is not permited. Instead, organic viticulturalists opt for organic products to grow and nourish their soils and therefore the grapes. Certified organic wines are made without GMO products and certain synthetic fining agents, but may use proteins such as those from milk and eggs.

 

Biodynamic

In addition to the organic requirements, two particular activities that are unique to biodynamic production must be undertaken. Firstly, several principles based on lunar cycles are utilized the timing of the operations on the land, such as planting, pruning and picking. Secondly, the use of herbal sprays and composting techniques, known as ‘preparations’ - primarily made from cow horn and manure - are also necessary under the certification requirements. They apply these preparations to enhance the soil and compost and to stimulate plant life. Biodynamics is often seen as a more wholistic paradigm.

Sustainable…(vineyards)

means that a variety of practices are used designed to reduce waste, use solar power, encourage biodiversity and manage run-off. They may or may not use pesticides. Sustainable vineyards are not regulated by government agencies. However, there are independent organizations that offer certifications and promote sustainable practices. Sustainability is being seen as the new normal especially in places like Chile, California and New Zealand where the majority of grape growers are now certified as sustainable.

 

Natural…(Wines)

Although many people don't put much stock in food products labeled as "natural" because this term is not regulated, in current times Natural Wine is seen as a legitimate “thing”. Basically it means the wine was handled and processed as minimally as possible, ideally but not necessarily from organically, sustainably or biodynamically grown grapes. Natural wines are typically made with little or no added sulfite, using endemic or wild yeast rather than innoculated with known yeasts, and are rarely fined or filtered or adjusted in any way. The result is usually a cloudy, or less clear, wine with varied flavour profiles. Other names for this style of wine are “Raw” and “Low-Fi”.

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Better for the planet & the People

The benefits of planet-friendly approaches to wine production broadly fall into four areas. There are;

  • Economic, such as long-term viability of land

  • Environmental, such as conservation of natural resources

  • Social equity, such as the health and well-being of the farm/winery employees and for consumers

It tastes better

When it comes to being environmental-warrior, one often has to make trade-offs or sacrifices. When it comes to wine, some people are unwilling to make the sacrifice for fear of inferior taste, as was sometimes the case in the past. The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice taste for sustainability any more because a recent analysis of expert wine reviews found just the opposite. Planet friendly (eco-certified) wine tasted better (on average) than the regular wines. You can read the report here.

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Where Certified organic fits in the eco-matrix

The current matrix of “eco” claims and labels – organic, biodynamic, sustainable, low-intervention, natural, raw, chemical-free, low sulphur, vegan – present a challenge even for the most savvy of green consumers! The big issue is that terms like low-intervention and natural are unregulated so you, the consumer, will generally be unable to determine the level of chemical intervention in the vineyard and additives in the winemaking. Although these descriptors communicate a benefit it is not always possible to know if synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides were used in growing the grapes and if chemicals were used in the winemaking. This is why certifications like organic and biodynamic help. Specific benchmarks are set and and the grower/producer’s practices are audited by third parties, offering the you, the customer, transparency. And although current certifications may less than perfect they do offer clarity in a category rife with confusion around definitions and standards.

Community supported Agriculture

The history of CSA

Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms originated in Germany, Switzerland, and Japan in the 1960’s for consumers seeking safe food and for farmers looking for a stable market. The concept was implemented the U.S. in the 1980s in response to the direction that agriculture was going, and is still going, toward large scale corporate farming.

Farmers wished to cut out the middle person and connect with buyers. Consumers wished to make a more personal connection with the origins of food, and wanted a healthier, practical, and environmentally sustainable way to acquire food. As a member of a CSA farm, you often have the opportunity to visit, volunteer at, and learn about the farm.

More recently, small organic wine producers in the USA have adopted the CSA model and have become Community Supported Vineyards or Wineries.  What's good for the goose, is good for the gander, even if we are a few thousand miles away!

HOW CSA works

In its simplest form a CSA farm offers "shares" to be bought by members, which is an up-front annual fee that helps the farmer cover a portion of their operational costs for the season. In return members receive a box of fresh produce at regular intervals (usually every week) during the farming season.  The US wine producers who have adopted the model provide annual and biannual deliveries of wine, rather than weekly or monthly, because wine is a bit different to fruit and vegetables.  We tend to agree. 

Benefits of CSA

The benefits of CSA farms are numerous, and include health and cost advantages to consumers, greater knowledge of food production issues support for farmers and an improved sense of shared community.  Sustaining small, family-owned vineyards and wineries is a goal worth pursuing - in our humble opinion...but then we are a little biased, aren't we? Ready to join now?

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