Wine 101 – September 21, 2015: What Is Organic Wine & What Are The Best Wines To Try?

This Week In Wine 101: What Is Organic Wine?

Over the past several years, organic wines have become increasingly popular. You may have seen them at your local grocery store, wine shop or online. As they grow more popular and are made readily available, more people are switching to organic wines. For some it is a matter of taste; for others it is a matter of choosing wines that aren’t subjected to chemicals or pesticides; and for others there are dietary or health concerns. But what does organic mean?

Well, in order for a wine to bear the “organic” label, the grapes grown must be in accordance with rules of organic farming. This means that no artificial sulfites, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides can be used to produce the wine. However, every country has different laws and requirements for producing organic wines.


What Are The Types of Organic Wine?

In the United States, there are four main categories for organic wines:

100% Organic – which is branded with a USDA seal on the bottle, indicating the product was made using 100% organic ingredients. Also, 100% organic wines can only contain naturally occurring sulfites or sulfur dioxide (a antimicrobial substance).

Organic – wines with this label are also stamped with the USDA seal of approval. However, the wine only contains 95% organic ingredients; meaning the other 5% is made with non-organic ingredients.

Made with Organic Ingredients or Organic Grapes – you may notice wines labeled with this designation. This simply means the wine was made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. In addition, the wine can also contain artificial sulfites but no more than 100ppm, whereas non-organic wines contain over 300ppm.

Some Organic Ingredients – like the title suggests, these wines only contain some organic ingredients and are still subjected to non-organic methods for producing wine, and/or could possibly contain artificial sulfites along with pesticides.

Regardless of the label, make sure you (fully) understand the differences between these categories of organic labeling and make sure to read the labels very carefully. Vineyards cannot label their wines as organic until they have completed three growing seasons without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Also, wines that come in a box are not organic.


Why Drink Organic Wine?

As previously stated, many individuals are choosing to drink organic wines for health or dietary reasons. Wines that contain added sulfites are used to produce cleaner wine, prevent oxidation, which affects color and freshness, but also kills bacteria along with wild yeast. It’s impossible to completely eliminate all the sulfites in wine, as it is a naturally occurring process. So, what is the difference between naturally occurring sulfites and added artificial sulfites? Artificial sulfites are used to preserve the life of a wine, hence a wine’s ability to age 8+ years or more. Due to the lower sulfite levels in organic wines, their shelf life is not as long as non-organic wines.

We’ve put together a list of over 25 organic wine producers who produce terrific wines:

Frog’s Leap Winery

Grgich Hills Estate

Organic Wine Company

Frey Wine

Bonterra Winery

Santa Julia Mendoza Argentina

Snoqualmine Wines

Parducci Sustainable Red Wine

DeLoach Vineyards

Hall Wines

Tablas Creek

Domaine Carneros Wine

Lapostolle Chilean Wines

Organic Vintners

Ceago Vinegarden

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

Nativa Terra Reserva Carmenere

Benziger Family Winery

Hawk and Horse Vineyards

Quivira Vineyard & Winery

Korbel Winery Organic Brut

Nuova Cappelletta

Temple Bruer Winery

Richmond Plains

Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic

Kawarau Estate

Badger Mountain

Bodega Hermanos Delgado

In conclusion, when opting to purchase organic wines, make sure to read the labels very carefully. Sometimes wines are falsely advertised. Look for the producers listed above when shopping for a nice organic wine to complement a meal or enjoy with company. You’ll also find that organic wines taste just as good as non-organic wines.

When shopping for organic wines you may have to skim and scan all the wines, as sometimes these wines are not always categorized in one section. If necessary, ask your local merchant to help you find an organic wine that suits your style and palate. Enjoy!

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