October 14, 2023 by Alyssa Taylor
The Sunday Sip: Organic Wine
Q: What does organic wine really mean?
A: To better understand organic wines vs non-organic wine, let’s first start by defining the term ‘organic.’ Organic – produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
Simply put, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes. There is a bit of confusion surrounding organic wine though and how it differentiates from organic foods; That is because of the importance of sulphur-dioxide (SO2) in the winemaking process. European wines have a different definition of organic wine vs the US:
- USA – a wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulfites
- EUROPE & CANADA: wine made from organically grown grapes that may contain added sulfites (BUT are normally still very limited quantities).
Although organic wines from the US must not add sulfites, this can greatly reduce a wine’s shelf life and potential for changing the flavor; Making it difficult for wineries actually spending the time (and money) to make organically grown grapes, to have it immediately lost once they use SO2 in their winemaking process.
It is also important to mention that ‘organic’ does not necessarily mean the wine is ‘without additives’ or vegan. The wine may very well be additive-free or vegan in addition, but there is a list of additives including things like yeast, egg whites, and animal enzymes that are technically allowed in organic wines.
So, what are non-organic wines? Non-Organic wines can use chemicals like herbicides and fungicides in the vineyards. In addition, they can use additives in the winemaking process like SO2 or Mega Purple. It can be common to see pesticides and fungicides used in areas that are calm (low wind) and have more moisture in the air to cause fungal infections (i.e. maybe close to a body of water like a lake or pond).
We can see why this becomes puzzling for consumers! Our short solution for anyone trying to be more conscious of organic usage, and what is ‘within your wine,’ is to look for ‘Made with Organically Grown Grapes’ on a wine label. If you see this, you can bet the wines are made with grapes from Certified Organic vineyards, and must contain less than 100 ppm sulfites – music to our ears! You can also look for these seals on bottles: SIP Certified (certification of sustainability for CA wines that restricts the use of bad chemicals in vineyards), and Demeter (offers organic and biodynamic certifications internationally).
Here are some stand-out Organic producers to keep in your back pocket: