You’ve probably heard things about organic wine, about sustainable production, wine’s impact on the environment etc. This article aims to cover these topics to inform and entertain you. Wine is fun, so I’ll try not to make it overly dry (excuse the pun).
Organic Wine Classifications
The United States Department of Agriculture has a National Organic Program, this defines four categories of organic wine and their labelling. The idea is to help us the consumer best choose the wine that meets our pocket (price) and our organic ideals!
1. 100 Percent Organic Wine
This is the real deal. This is the pinicale, the ultimate designation for organic wine.
It is indicated with a USDA seal on the bottle showing the wines contain 100 percent organic certified grapes. It also means sulfites, nitrates and other non-organic ingredients have not been used in the production process of the wine.
Qualifying wines may claim the 100% Organic Wine status and follow a bunch of labelling criteria (that’s far too dull to go into).
Something worth considering when you are looking to buy an organic wine is this: sulfites are a naturally occurring ingredient in wine, they infiltrate via the grape’s skin and they help the wine maintain stability during storage. It can be difficult to make wines with consistent flavor when no added sulfites are used.
2. Organic, Made with Organic Grapes
Here’s the criteria, basically it’s close but no cigar.
- At least 95 percent of the wine must be from organic grapes
- The other five percent can include non-organic material, like yeast, that is not available in organic form.
- There can be no added sulfites in this wine.
This category still qualifies for a USDA seal and the winemaker can put an organic label on the bottle.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients
Why would you go for something that is made with Organic ingredients, but which isn’t classified as truly Organic? Do these wines have a more consistent flavour?
- At least 70 percent of the grapes used must be organic
- The remaining 30 percent being non-organic material.
- Sulfites may be added but should be indicated as an ingredient with the wine containing no more than 100 ppm.
- The ingredients must be listed
The certifying agency and address can be listed as well as their seal but without the USDA seal.
4. Some Organic Ingredients
Finally, in our last category, we may have some organic grapes! However, this will be less than 70 percent.
More than 30 percent non-organic agriculturally produced ingredients are allowed.
Sulfites: The good, the bad and the Ugly
What do we think about sulfites? Give you a bad hang-over? Are added to wine and aren’t good for you?
Given that there’s a limit on the maximum concenration of sulfites in 100% organic wine, then you would think sulfites must be bad.
Well, sulfites are nothing new.
Benefits: They have been used as a food preservative for decades, often with fruit and vegetables. Winemakers may add small amounts to prevent oxidation and spoilage, which is particularly helpful for aging wines.
Cons: Some people are sensitive to sulfites and they may experience side effects for consuming them, these may include allergic reactions such as headaches and dizziness.
Is It Worth It?
With the tight regulation on the amount of sulfites that can be included in Organic wine, producers have struggled to create wines that have rich and profound personalities. Thankfully, with time and experimentation, techniques have been found that have now enabled many wine producers to overcome these difficulties producing refined and falvourful wines without the need for the addition of sulfites. Phew!!
Similar to other organic products, the supply and demand for organic wine is growing worldwide.
The largest percentage of organic wine in the United States comes from California. Around the world, organic wine is taking hold in France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. Unless something dramatic happens, one would expect this trend to continue into the future.
Are Organic Wines Are Gentle on the Environment?
Selecting Organic wine is an environmentally responsible choice since it encourages, or should I say, demands, environmentally sustainable practices.
When growers use organic farming methods to grow their grapes, the entire eco-system benefits. Choosing organic products, whether wine or food, is good for your health as well as the earth.