As much as the term ‘organic’ is popular, organic foods make up a small percentage of food sales! So what can you do to be more organic? Well, it seems reasonable that organic wines should be a great choice. Oddly enough, organic wine is not that popular.
What is Organic Wine?
Very simply, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes. In order to have organically grown grapes, a vineyard manager must implement an entirely different set of practices to maintain their vines.
By the way, organic doesn’t imply that the wine doesn’t have additives. There is, in fact, a list of additives. including things like yeast, egg whites, and animal enzymes (like rennet in cheese) that are allowed in organic wines. Being organic doesn’t necessarily mean a wine is vegan.
What is the Dilemma with Organic Wine?
The dilemma with organic wines (and what sets them apart from other organic foods) is the importance of sulphur-dioxide (SO2) in the winemaking process. Perhaps you’ve seen a lot more European organic (called ‘bio’) wines and this is because Europe has a different definition of organic:
- USA: “a wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulfites”
- EUROPE & CANADA: “a wine made from organically grown grapes that may contain added sulfites”
Organic wines from the US must not add sulfites, which in most scenarios greatly reduces a wine’s shelf life and, in some cases, can substantially change the flavor. Wineries find themselves in a quandary because spending the time to make organically grown grapes is immediately lost because they use SO2 in the bottling line.
Yet Sulphur Dioxide is a natural bi- product in the fermentation process of making wine- so no wine will ever have zero SO2...
What are Non-Organic Wines?
Non-Organic wines can use chemicals like herbicides and fungicides in the vineyards and other additives in a wine. You’ll find most of the bizarre chemicals in non-organic wines are used in the vineyard. It is 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 (perhaps close to a river, pond or lake). You’ll find many fungicides and pesticides being employed to kill invasive species. For instance, in Napa, a foreign bug called the glassy winged sharpshooter is a carrier of Pierce’s Disease. This particular disease basically turns vines into lepers with rotting leaves and eventually kills them.