No longer focused solely on food, the sustainability movement has grown legs, crossing over into clothing, construction, and even wine. When Kate and Andrey Tkachenko opened Aged Cork in Yonkers in the fall of 2020, their intention was to introduce more natural, sustainable wines to Westchester. Thoroughly taste-tested and thoughtfully chosen, 90% of the wine in the shop is sustainable, with a handful of conventional bottles for oenophiles with big-brand attachments. We sat down with the Scarsdale couple to discuss sustainable wine and why they think it’s a better sip. Spoiler alert: Wine headaches could become a thing of the past.
Aged Cork: Sustainability is a broad concept, and it encompasses every aspect of winemaking. All practices in the vineyard depend on each other. It’s an integrated ecosystem where one thing takes care of the other. For example, instead of spraying the grapes with pesticides, sheep and cows graze between the vines, eating weeds; plants are put in to attract insects. Most often, these producers employ organic practices — shying away from pesticides, chemicals, or sulfites — because it’s a more natural thing to do. They want to keep the land healthy; they’re not just kicking the can down the road for the next owner to deal with it.
AC: Most of them are farmers first. They own the land; they love what they do. Families are involved, sometimes for generations. Most handpick the grapes, producing only a few thousand cases per year. Their wine is an expression of the place, of the winemaker him- or herself.
AC: Producers who make a million cases of wine a year manufacture to a certain taste profile, making sure the wine tastes the same every year despite, for example, the weather. Some buy grapes on the open market, where quality and taste can vary; meaning, a lot must be added to the wine to make it always taste the same. Producers of sustainable wine start with healthy grapes and healthy soil, so nothing must be corrected in the winemaking process; less is more.
AC: Not if you do the right thing. When you set up an ecosystem, you don’t have to spend money dealing with issues [weather, pests] every year. A nice bottle will run you $12–$15.
AC: The headache some wine drinkers experience is usually associated with all the things that are added to the wine to make inferior grapes or a weather-affected crop taste the same year after year. There are about 80 chemicals that can be added during the winemaking process — colorants, flavorants, enzymes, wood chips — that don’t have to be disclosed on the label.
AC: It’s better for the planet; it’s better for you. It’s higher-quality wine, and it just tastes better.
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