The terms "natural wine" and "green wine" might evoke sun-dappled vineyards with smiling peasant folk gathering grapes. Actually, these two phrases are just marketing terms, with no standards or third-party verification to back them up.
Unlike USDA organic wines or biodynamic wines -- which are inspected regularly by certifying agencies -- wineries that produce so-called natural wine or green wine don't have to meet any particular standards.
For example, a wine that calls itself natural could still come from a vineyard that's filled with synthetic pesticides. And unless the label clearly says, "No Sulfites Added," a sustainable wine might have added sulfur dioxide.
And people who are looking for a so-called "healthy wine" should realize that there's no scientific evidence that natural, biodynamic or USDA-certified organic foods are healthier or more nutritious to eat or drink. There is, however, overwhelming evidence that organic and sustainable farming practices that use fewer pesticides and other synthetic compounds are healthier for the environment.
'Organic Unless Something Goes Wrong'
Some vintners decide to make green wines because the requirements for earning a USDA Organic label are so rigorous and time-consuming that they choose instead to just make wine their way, and leave the paperwork to others. (Some vintners joke that "natural wine" really means "organic unless something goes wrong.")
Natural or sustainable vineyards and wineries sometimes avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or they might use only naturally occurring yeasts and sulfites, or they might just avoid any fining or filtration. Others rely on solar power, or biodiesel fuel, or geothermal cooling in their buildings. It all depends on the individual winery, so read the label, ask questions about any natural wine or green wine, and caveat emptor.