Everyone has likely heard of organic wine, but what is it? What makes it organic? Is it any good?
The short answer is, yes, organic wine is very good! In fact, it’s delicious – just as good as wines that aren’t organic. In a nutshell, organic wine is made with grapes that were grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals and instead with natural methods and substances.
So, what is organic wine? There are several distinctions:
“Organic” or “100% Organic”: If these words appear on the bottle, the wine is required to have been made with organically farmed grapes in compliance with the USDA and most global organic certification agencies. This means the grapes were grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. It also means that in the cellar they were vinified without any of the dozens of additives permitted in conventional winemaking—such as coloring agents, flavor enhancers, pH-adjusters, and even industrial chemicals. European organic winemakers are allowed to add a minimal amount of sulfites. (More on sulfites later!)
“Made with Organic Grapes”: means the grapes were organically farmed, but certain additives—most often sulfites—were added in the winemaking process.
“Organic grapes” listed as an ingredient on the back label means at least 70% of the grapes are organic.
“Organic, Biodynamic or Natural Wines”: Biodynamic wines have to meet the same standards as organic wines, but the biodynamic certifying association, Demeter, requires additional steps. In biodynamic winemaking, vineyards are self-sustaining ecosystems. All inputs (like fertilizers and pest controls) must come from natural sources within the vineyard itself. Instead of trucking in fertilizer, for instance, a winemaker might keep a few cows around for manure, or let chickens and ladybugs gobble up aphids instead of applying a spray.
“Natural wine”: isn’t a regulated term, but has come to mean wines that are made with minimal intervention and inputs both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Many organic and biodynamic wines fit this description. Because they’re handled with a relatively light touch, natural wines often clearly express the landscapes and seasons that formed them.
Finally, a word on those evil Sulfites! There’s no need to fear sulfites! Sulfites are simply preservatives widely used in winemaking to keep the wine from spoiling and turning brown. All wine, including organic wine, has a small, inescapable amount of sulfites because sulfur dioxide is released naturally during fermentation. Organic wines, though, aren’t dosed with added sulfites during the winemaking process, and in the United States, must have less than 10 parts per million of sulfites (in other words, .001%). In Europe, the allowable limit for organic wines is a bit higher: 100 ppm for red wine and 150 ppm for whites and rosés. Conventional wines can have 350 ppm or more.
The long and short of it is that whether you prefer organic wine because you want to support a sustainable way of producing wine or perhaps you have an allergy to sulfites, organic wines are a delicious alternative to traditional wines. The bottle shop at LaDiDa Wine Bar & Bottle Shop carries a variety of excellent organic wines to choose from, so come out and see us and we’ll be happy to show you a varietal that we are certain will please any palate! Reach for Malea Rosé ($13.99) or Malea White Blend ($14.99), Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.99), Figuiere Cuvee Magali Rose ($23.99), Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba ($22.99), Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Del Fondatore ($19.99), Roger Goulart Brut Cava ($18.99), Suavia Soave Classico ($21.99).