You may have noticed that wine is the latest commodity on the frontline of the great organic debate. I’m sure many of you are furrowing a brow, wondering what organic wine is. That’s a thing? What does it mean? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered and have condensed this massive topic to just the top five things to know about organic wine.
1. What is organic wine: Basically, organic wine is wine produced from organic grapes. Simple enough, right? In the US, organic wine qualifies as wine produced from grapes that were grown organically, meaning without fungicides, herbicides or pesticides. Also in the US, the wine has no added sulfites. In Europe and Canada, organic wine is similarly produced from organic grapes; however, it may contain some sulfites. Okay, moving right along.
2. How do you know what wine is organic wine: There are different tiers so to speak of organic wines, including “100% organic”, “at least 95% organic” and “at least 70% organic”. If you want 100% organic wine, look for a “100 percent organic” label on the bottle or a USDA seal and the information about its’ regulation agency. At least 95% organic wine will be labeled as just simply “organic,” while at least 75% organic wine will be labeled “made from organic ingredients”. Beyond these regulations, you may see wine that is labeled as all natural, biodynamic, vegan, or fair trade, all of which are movements of their but are not necessarily organic wines.
3. Sulfites are a hot topic regarding organic wine: While you may think that the big talk about organic wine is solely regarding fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and all the other additives that we consume when drinking it, there’s a lot of concern with the sulfites, or sulphur dioxide (SO2) found in wine. While some amount of sulfites in wine are naturally occurring, winemakers since 8th century BC have been adding sulfites to wine to fight bacteria and oxidation. This begs the question, why are sulfites so bad? Well, some people have sensitivities or allergies to sulphur and may suffer from a reaction to its presence in wine. Everyone else who is all upset about sulfites? Calm down, you’re fine! Well at least that’s what most experts say, but more on that another time.
4. Organic wine isn’t just about human health; it’s about the environment: Beyond the argument that organic wine is maybe healthier, there’s a bigger reasons why people advocate for it. You named it, it’s better for the environment. Organic wine is a greener, more eco-friendly option for Earth and all its little inhabitants (like us). In a study conducted by the Journal of Cleaner Production and reviewed by The Academic Wino, improvement to vineyard practices including using organic fertilizers on grapes and cutting energy emissions for bottle production may have a positive impact on the wine industry’s overall carbon footprint. Though surprisingly, the far greater negative impact that wine has on the environment isn’t even the wine itself; it’s us. The worst thing for the environment when it comes to wine is found in consumer practices, i.e. the amount of car emissions put into the air when we drive ourselves to the store to buy wine. Crazy, right? So next time you’re buying wine, do your part and car-pool or be really smart and stock up in one trip.
5. So overall, is organic wine worth it: There’s three things to consider when answering this question. If you’re a big time wine drinker who prioritizes taste, character and how well a wine is going to age, then no, probably not. The lack of sulfites in organic wine means that neither you nor the producer can really age the wine because of inevitable bacterial growth. If you’re more of a table-wine drinker, then sure, why not. Just know that your wine has an expiration date and to drink it within 3-6 months. If the big threat to the environment thing has you a little perturbed but you still want to drink/buy wines that can age, then there are many other movements, programs, etc., that you can look into that are more environmentally sustainable to help you sit back, relax and drink easy. Or you know, like I said before, bring a buddy and buy in bulk.
That wasn’t so bad now was it? Next time you see organic wine while out and about or are dragged into the debate, you’ll have handy these top five things to know about organic wine. Oh, how smart you are.