Honest Review: 5 Eco-friendly Red Wines for Under $16

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's drinking wine. I basically majored in it in college.

That, however, doesn't mean I always have the most sophisticated palate or can afford the most expensive vino - especially not when trying to buy organic or ethical products on a budget.

But just because I might be buying wine on a budget doesn't mean I want it to TASTE like I'm buying wine on a budget.


No one wants to be That Girl at the party: the hot mess express with the bottle of red-tinted motor oil - am I right? Especially not since I'm already showing up in a crop top that's covered in dog hair, let's be real.

So I decided to make an event of wading my way into the world of organic or ethical reds! I called in some blogger friends to lend their taste buds, along with a few dear friends. I can testify that we all drink a lot of wine regularly, which obviously makes us incredibly qualified for the following highly scientific assessment. 

I handmade these very formal and official review cards for our tasting notes:

click to enlarge

Our resident bloggers for this adventure were Kendra from A Crunchy Peach and Matty, her partner in crime you may recognize as "The Mister" if you're following along their culinary foray into the world of Chef Vivian Howard, and Lauren over at the gorgeous lifestyle delight we call Paper Vines.

It's worth mentioning that none of us tried the same wines at the same time, so our opinions weren't swayed by our neighbors. Since we all have pretty liberal definitions of what a "tasting pour" means, I'm leaving some of the more colorful or... disheveled cards out of the review galleries! Click through to see our varied and sometimes hilarious responses. And I maintain that the final emojis are thumbs down versus pinky out. Now. Let's dive in. 

Pizzolato Rosso Convento ($13.99)

Why I picked it: Certified organic by Bios SRL, USDA, this wine contains organic, non-GMO grapes made through organic production, and contains no detectable sulfites. Pizzolato was one of the first Italian wineries to become organic, and uses green energy, half of which is produced on site. They have also incorporated energy-efficient machinery, automatic on-off light systems, reduced waste, and reduced water consumption through micro-irrigation. 

Tastes: Ranged from "apples" and "cherry" to "smooth" and "like summer". (We are notoriously bad at this part... Logan wrote and crossed out about 5 things.)

Would pair with: Three of the 6 of us said pasta, and Kendra said, "an evening playing games with friends."

Made us want to: This one got a little too colorful for me to include all the cards, but the blog-propriate responses were "visit Italy and drive around in a convertible" from sweet Lauren, "nap" from my boyfriend, and "share secrets with friends in a bed". 

Would rename: I'll stand by my choice of Koala Hugs, but Kendra's Lady Friend was a close second.

The verdict: 5 Pinkies Out, 1 Thumbs Down!

Releaf ($9.99)

Why I picked it: Releaf is made with hand harvested, organically grown grapes and comes in a bottle containing partially recycled glass with a recycled paper label printed with sustainable inks.

Tastes: Acidic, berry, steely, non-descript red blend, minerals.

Would pair with: Tater tots, pizza, briny olives... or cheesecake? 

Made us want to: Two of us said drink something else, a third said not drink anymore of it, and it made Matty want to go bowling.

Would rename: Bitey Bitch, Ex-Boyfriend Booze, or Blended Days

The verdict: 2 Pinkies Out, 4 Thumbs Down

Spier Wines Beyond Ordinary ($14.99)

Why I picked it: Integrity & Sustainability Certified, Spier winery is highly water-conscious and recycles 100% of their wastewater, using only eco-friendly processes. Spier also partnered with social justice organization Pack for Purpose and environmental and social program Tree-preneurs, and has a social investment program for their employees. 

Tastes: Smoky and oaky were the most popular adjectives, with berries coming in third. And my boyfriend declared "sulfites" as a dominant flavor in jest. 

Would pair with: an intense night, pizza, pork, steak... and money.

Made us want to:  talk to old men in libraries wearing fur, play baccarat, take over the world. 

Would rename: Roger's Library, Forget About Him, or Home, Home on the Range

The verdict: 2 Pinkies Out, 2 Thumbs Down, 2 Eh. 

Pacific Redwood ($10.99 Earthfare, $12.86 Total Wine)

Why I picked it: This USDA certified organic red is both grown and processed organically, so there are no added sulfites - only naturally occurring. They also don't use yeast nutrients or genetically modified yeast. The Frey winery, the producers of Pacific Redwood, also focuses on biodiversity and local forest protection.

Tastes: Most of us agreed on light, soft, and berries with this one.

Would pair with: While Lauren would drink it casually without food, I would pair it with awkward dinners with extended family. Matty would pair it with pork.

Made us want to: Take bubble baths, dance, and have a girls' night in pajamas.

Would rename: Fruitskis Tootskies, Easy like Sunday Morning, or Fancy Pants

The verdict: 5 Pinkies Out, 1 Thumbs Down!

Live-a-Little ($11.99)

Why I picked it: Integrity & Sustainability Certified, this red from Stellar's Winery has no added sulfites, is made from USDA certified organic grapes, is vegan friendly, and is fair trade certified

Tastes: Fruit, funk, pepper... and Kendra felt this one smelled of armpits. 

Would pair with: Meatloaf, meat board, cheese, filet mignon. 

Made us want to: Brush my teeth, drink something else, eat olives.

Would rename: I voted Freshman Year, and Kendra would rename this one Manchengo. 

The verdict: 3 Pinkies Out, 3 Thumbs Down!

This was an incredibly fun and surprisingly informative little adventure, and the best part? Somehow not a one of us was hungover! Perhaps there's something to this no sulfites bit, after all? Hmm... we should do it again with whites in a couple months just to make sure, right?! Till next time...

Pinkies out and bottoms up, y'all! 


*This gallery contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and give the product a whirl, I get a tiny fee for spreading the news at no extra cost to you. This helps me offset the enormous amount of time that goes into Compost & Cava.