How We Buy Wine

A Buyer’s Philosophy at City Feed and Supply

Aside from “do we like it?” folks have been asking us about how we buy our wines here at City Feed and Supply. As with how we vet all other products you can find in both our shops, yes, there is a philosophy behind our choices; wine being no easier… maybe just a tad more fun.

With wine, we strive to feature small producers, sustainable growing practices, non-interventionist methods or unnecessary additives, and wines reflective of their unique sense of place. We mainly aim to focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural leaning wines because we want to provide healthy and sustainable options for our community, something that we feel our customers are concerned about and looking for.

Wine is an agricultural product made from grapes, and as such, we first start from there: the vineyard. Similar to the Equal Exchange coffee we serve and the produce we feature, we want to support the wines made from smaller farmer producers, especially from the folks who choose to make their wines with a keen focus on sustainable growing practices; whether through Integrated Pest Management, Organic and Biodynamic viticulture or other ‘natural’ leaning, sustainable growing practices. We even feature a few winemakers such as Coturri and Hardesty who opt to make their wines sulfite free.

There are a variety of ‘green’ certifications a vineyard can have such as “Certified Organic” or “Certified Biodynamic”, but similar to the local farmers we work with, not every winemaker desires to be certified or can afford the expense to become certified. Although it can be easy and reassuring to see the certifications on the wine labels, not having a certification does not rule a wine out for us, it just means that we need to dig a little deeper. Getting to know the background info on how the wine was made and who made it –its story – is really more important to us than any certification. For this reason, we research the wine, ask our distributors to provide us with more information and when possible try to speak with the folks themselves, as in one particular case receiving correspondence from the head agronomist of an Italian vineyard co-op clarifying their viticulture pest management practices for us. We love the stories we can share with our customers about the various producer/farmers, cheese makers, etc and our wine is certainly no different. We believe that it actually enhances the experience and helps close the distance of accountability that can often be found in the global marketplace.

Besides simply enjoying the stories, learning and understanding how a wine has been made and developing relationships with our distributors, it really is important for us to know the facts as the wine/beer industry is not regulated by the FDA and is therefore exempt from having to reveal all of the ingredients, aside from sulfites, used in the making of their products to the consumer (Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. Mathews, 435 F. Supp. 5 (W.D. Ky. 1976). http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/513/Myers.html)  And just with the food we like to sell, we prefer not to have any funny business going on in the wines that we place on our shelves.

A large part of what we do here at CF&S is to source high quality locally farmed or produced goods. The challenge that we face is that there are also many products we love and our customers’ love that are not produced locally, such as coffee, chocolate and bananas. We certainly seek out high quality wines from this side of the coast in our neck of the woods such as  Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery from Westport MA, and Sakonnet Vineyards of Little Compton, R.I. along with regional wineries  Bedell from Long Island’s North Fork, and Lamoreaux Landing from New York’s great Finger Lakes.

Sustainable growing practices are merely one facet with our choices, and even though this is happening now in almost every corner of the globe, how it is then transported and from where is of no less importance. The shipment of wine can be quite costly, financially as well as on the environment. The weight of the glass bottles are fairly heavy and therefore take their toll over great distances.  After doing some research, it became clear to us that wines produced from the Northern Hemisphere, particularly from North America and Western Europe, would be our best choices to feature as they would provide us with the lowest carbon footprints (Here’s a really good link that pretty much sums up the carbon footprint issue http://www.wine-economics.org/workingpapers/AAWE_WP09.pdf). Wines that are coming from Western Europe traverse the Atlantic Ocean via large ships providing the Boston area with wines of smaller impact on resources than even that of California, which would rely more on trucking.  While there are many great wines produced in the Southern Hemisphere, we are pleased simply focusing on the abundance of quality wines available from the U.S. and Europe and are happy that their carbon footprint is smaller.

Only then after all these considerations, do we get to answer that simple question: “Do we like it?”

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