Organic wine is better for you and the environment.
Organic wine is wine made without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. There are a number of organic certifications and designations, with each country setting their own guidelines and requirements.
Generally, a certified organic designation will include compliance with:
- Avoidance of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
- Avoidance of GMOs
- Use of land and soil that has been chemical free for a defined number of years
- Audit trail or paper trail for records including sales and production
- Separation of organic product from non-organic product
- Site visits for the purposes of inspections
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There is a lot of work that goes into making organic wine, and the increased cost of production often results in a more expensive wine. It can be hard to rationalize paying a little bit more for wine, so lets unpack why you should.
Wine is much more than just grapes. Some conventionally made wines can contain up to 70 different ingredients, including (but not limited to) yeasts, preservatives, food dyes, residual pesticides and sometimes even added sugar. Seriously.
Over 50% of wines available in the US are made from a select few large companies. Their marketing is good, very good, and most consumers are tricked into believing that they are purchasing wine made from a small vineyard / winery. The reality is, you are likely drinking wine produced in a large industrial facility. In order to produce volume, these wineries often employ the help of additives and chemicals. The grapes are grown with pesticides. Conventional wines are often higher in sulphites, a stabilizer to preserve wine and stop the aging / spoiling. These wines may also contain added sugar to improve the taste, thus increasing the calorie count. High volume and large scale production also requires the use of machinery for harvesting. When you get a machine involved in harvesting, there is damage to the fruit, that can result in oxidization and and poorer taste. Due to the poorer quality and taste of the grapes, additives, such as food dyes and mouth-feel agents are included in the wine. Conventional wines often use Velcorin, a bacterial control agent that is added during the fermentation process to treat possible bacterial contaminants. The issue is that Velcorin is also a toxic chemical, which, with prolonged or high exposure, has been found to cause troubled breathing, coughing, burning, ulceration, skin rashes, and permanent eye damage.
Finally, conventional wines may also contain animal byproducts. These animal-derived materials are used to “fine” and filter the wine. Large-scale conventional wineries often fine and filter their wine to improve the texture and clarity of the wine. Unless you purchase a wine labelled vegan, you may also consuming fish bladders, egg whites, or bentonite clay.
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Organic wines vs natural wines:
Organic wines can fall into one of three categories:
- Made with some organic ingredients
- Made with organic grapes / ingredients
- Certified organic
When you are shopping for wine, these are some terms to look for:
- No added sulfites: The winery did not add sulphites to the wine, but you may still find naturally occurring sulfites.
- Sustainably produced: Environmentally friendly production techniques are used, which may include things like solar power, crop rotation, and limited use of chemicals.
- Made with Organic grapes.
- Biodynamically produced: Production methods are respectful of land and environment. No synthetic pesticides or chemicals, fertilizers, or GMOs are used.
- Made with organic grapes: The grapes used in production are organic but the winemaker is not certified.
- Certified organic: The winemaker has been certified by the countries regulatory body, meets all compliance requirements, and is inspected regularly.
Why consumers are choosing organic wine:
- Lowers your exposure to chemicals and pesticides.
- Reduces your consumption of additives, such as dyes.
Why organic wine is friendlier to the earth:
Biodynamic and Organic farming practices include the use of renewable resources, crop rotation, green manures, and water conservation. When compared with conventional farming methods, these practices maintain the quality of the soil, naturally manage pests and weeds, and promote biodiversity. Better soil = better crops = better wine.
So, the next time you see an organic wine and wonder if the added cost is worth it, ask yourself what the chemical burden on your body, and the depletion of the earth is worth.