Is there anything better than a decent glass (ahem, or bottle) of wine? How about knowing that the glass you're drinking has had absolutely no negative impact on the Earth? Much better.
Sustainability is a word that is banded around quite a lot in the wine world. But what does it actually mean? Well, it basically means that everything involved, from production right the way down to final sale has no negative effects on the Earth (and, in many cases, its people).
Whether that's by putting back what you take out or by making sure that what you do take out can replenish itself naturally, making the Earth sustainable can actually do that rather important little job of keeping humans alive without artificial intervention.
Although there are lots of wineries in the world that are doing great things in sustainable wine production (as well as organic, and biodynamic, which are more commonly seen here), there's not nearly enough good examples here in the UK. Sometimes that's because the wines don't travel well, sometimes it's because we as consumers don't seem happy to pay the inevitable extra cost that comes with wines that have invested in sustainability.
So I was thrilled to discover the Sustainable Wines website recently! Its founder Tulip is a New Zealander who has lived in London and worked in the food and drink industry for many years, and her passion and enthusiasm for sustainable and ethically-friendly wines is clear.
She got in touch to tell us all about her website, and sent us some wine to try from Ohau Wines, a sustainable wine project from a new wine growing region in New Zealand called Ohau (I was super excited to discover a new wine region!)
The Ohau region is very northerly compared to the New Zealand wine regions most of us are familiar with (like Marlborough and Otago). It's just north of the Kapiti Coast on the North Island, and Ohau Wine's vineyards here cover just 40 hectares on the gravel soils that are typical of the region.
The two main grape varieties they grow are Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, which they use to produce single varietal wines under two different labels, Ohau Gravels and Woven Stone.
Woven Stone Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
Normally when confronted with a New Zealand Sauvignon, I'm pretty sure I know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised not to have my face ripped off by pungent aromas of grass and gooseberry!
Sure they are there, but it's much more refined and civilised. There's nettle, blackcurrant leaf, a slight green bell pepper note and citrus underlining the lot. On the palate the citrus really shines through mingling with more tropical notes. The whole thing is superbly well balanced with good acidity that doesn't strip a layer of skin from your mouth. £14.99 from sustainablewines.co.uk
Woven Stone Pinot Gris, 2014
Beautifully floral on the nose with touches of rose, mango, peach and subtle spice. The palate continues the tropical theme with succulent fruit and a good kick of spice.
It has that fatty texture so often associated with Pinot Gris but a very good acidity to cut through it all so as not to make it flabby. £15.99 from sustainablewines.co.uk
Woven Stone Rosé, 2014
While it doesn't say it on the bottle, I can tell you that this made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Slightly deeper in colour than most rosés, this is showing wonderful aromas of cherry, blossom and red apple.
It's beautifully smooth with good acidity and soft and creamy texture. Unbelievably easy to drink and so refreshing. £16.50 from sustainablewines.co.uk
These wines are the top label from Ohau with only the finest fruit going in.
Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
If you thought the Woven Stone was refined, this is on a whole different level. This is much more French in style, reminding somewhat of a decent Sancerre.
Very citrus-led and a whole heap of flinty mineral notes. Again, no hint of face ripping pungent aromas or mouth watering acidity. £18.50 from sustainablewines.co.uk
Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris, 2014
This really is a cut above the Woven Stone.
Superb depth with rose, turkish delight, a touch of honey and a brooding spice just waiting to be explored.
On the palate it has a wonderfully soft yet mouth filling texture with good acidity and a mineral character cutting through it all. The flavours of peach, nectarine and flint are a true expression of this wine's gravel-laden soils. £18.99 from sustainablewines.co.uk
Exploring the diverse methods of Earth-friendly wine production is not only fascinating but ridiculously easy thanks to Tulip and her wonderful website. I'm really, truly excited to see more from them, and hope this is just the start of a new trend that makes sustainable wines finally get the limelight they deserve.