A basic guide to organic wine
With terms like natural, organic, sustainable, and bio-dynamic being thrown around; it can be a challenge picking out a “greener” wine. One of the major benefits of organic growing is lower sulfite counts, which leave you less likely to get a headache or to turn flush from the wine. Please note that sulfites are a naturally occurring byproduct of wine making, and they affect people differently. They are added to stop the sugars from converting to alcohol (fermentation). Fun fact: an entire bottle of wine contains less sulfites than one serving of broccoli! Now, let’s get down to brass tacks:
Natural Wine – This refers to most wine commercially distributed in the US, though the term has no law pertaining to its use. Natural wine contains no added sugar, flavoring, no acidity adjusters and is generally made with a “let’s not tweak this too much” kind of attitude.
Certified Organic Wine – These are wines that contain no traces of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizer. In addition, they contain minimal levels of added sulfites depending on the laws governing certification for the region. If the label says “Wine made from organic grapes”, the juice is organic, but sulfites can be added.
Bio-dynamic – Wines that are grown and treated with a more holistic approach. This means no artificial chemicals and more cover crops, natural manures and simulation of a natural ecosystem. Some bio-dynamic growers even take the position of the stars into consideration, and follow an astronomical planting schedule.
Sustainable – Practices based on ecology and the natural surrounds of the grapes, and often strive for a carbon neutral facility. Sustainable farms use hawks and owls to combat rodent problems, chickens to eat bad bugs, plant flowers to keep pests away, and use other natural means to create a farm that keeps its own balance. Sustainable farmers also consider soil health for generations to come, and are aware that what goes into the earth now has a longer lasting effect.
Unfortunately, many wineries that practice some of these farming techniques don’t get certified or even boast that aspect of their growing. It’s always helpful to do a little research on what you’re drinking beforehand, and remember; always read your labels! To see what the Department of Agriculture says about organic wine, click here: http://web.archive.org/web/20041021080518/http://www.atf.gov/alcohol/alfd/wine.pdf