Organic, natural, sustainable…they all seem to go hand-in-hand. But what is on your wine label is very important to determine just how organic, natural, or sustainable it is.
What is Organic Wine?
The definition of organic wine varies from country to country. The largest producers of organic wine are the United States and France.
The differences between the organic regulations regarding wine usually involve whether or not you can use preservatives in the winemaking process. This is why you will often see organic wines might also be labelled as ‘sulphite-free’ or ‘no sulphites added’.
Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with the principals of organic farming. These typically exclude the use of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides.
The National Organic Program sets the standards and process for becoming and maintaining organic certification.
Four Types of Organic Wine Labels
Myth: That all organic wines are sulphite (also spelled as sulfite) or additive-free.
Not all organic wine is the same. Knowing the four types of organic wine labels will help you pick out a bottle of organic wine that suits your needs.
- 100% Organic- 100% certified organic grapes are used. No added sulphites.
- Made with Organic Ingredients- Made from at least 70% certified organic grapes. May contain added sulphites.
- Organic- Contains at least 95% of ingredients from certified organic sources.
- Some organic ingredients- Some ingredients are from certified organic sources.
Next time you pop into your local wine shop, check out the organic section and try to find these labels on the wine there. You may also see a label that says ‘made with organically grown grapes’.
If in doubt, check out the wineries websites before you buy. Barreca Vineyards is a great example of a winery going above and beyond to produce high-quality 100% Organic and sulphite-free wines (even using non-GMO yeast). The website is also a great source that explains the many other additives to conventional wines that are never on the wine label.
Organic Wine Certification
It’s so important that organically grown grapes and wines come from certified sources. This protects consumers from fraud and being misled. Currently, the standard for viticulture in the United States is ‘Conventional Viticulture Practices’. This means that efficiency is the primary focus and the environment is secondary.
Please keep in mind that many vineyards do, in fact, practice sustainable or biodynamic farming in the United States. You will sustainable farm practices, wine production, and organic vineyards in many places like Walla Walla, Washington and Napa Valley, California.
Some of the more common sustainable certifications that you may see: SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice), Salmon-Safe, Demeter, and USDA Organic. There are also other organic certification or sustainability labels that you may see.
Does Organic Wine Age Well?
Just like conventional wine, not all of them do not have a long shelf-life. But it is a common misconception that wines made with organic grapes are not age-worthy.
If you have any doubts about whether your favourite organic wine is cellar-worthy, check out reviews or email the winery and get their take on whether this particular wine can be aged. If so, how long?
The Difference Between Organic, Natural, Sustainable, and Biodynamic Wines?
That’s a mouthful. We see these labels now on many of our foods, drinks, and types of wines. What do they mean and what is the difference?
Organic– As stated at the beginning of the article, organic wine is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with the principals of organic farming. These typically exclude the use of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides. 100% organic wines contain no added sulphites. The organic label is also highly regulated and focuses on the winemaking process from vineyard to bottling.
Natural– This can vary by winemaker but is the oldest grape-growing and winemaking method. It includes growing grapes and making wine with minimal technological manipulation and no chemical intervention. You may see this label for those wineries who are not yet certified organic (there are tons of hoops to jump through). This also includes the use of wild or native yeast. Most wineries get commercial yeast that is GMO.
Sustainable– You may see this label on wines or see on other media that the wines are sustainable. This means that regulated sustainability is used throughout farming practices and the winemaking process. This can include limited water use and solar panels. They are often accompanied by a sustainable practice logo.
Biodynamic– Like organic, this label and practice are also regulated and certified. Biodynamic wines adhere to organic wine criteria and more. This starts with the vineyard and viewing it as a small eco-system.
What are the normal vineyard and winery practice?
*Remember- Wine lovers have been drinking organic, natural, and sustainable wine for millennia. Drinking organic wine is often deemed as going back to the roots and culture of winemaking.
Most wine additives are not required to be labelled on the bottle or even listed on the website. Dozens of chemicals are allowed to be added to wines. If you seem to have any sensitivity to these, stick with organic wines.
Are the ‘sulphites give me headaches’ thing real?
There is no scientific evidence supporting the claims that sulphites in wine or red wine can or do cause headaches. Sulphites naturally occur in the human body as well as wine and many other food and drinks.
However, there are some underlying factors about wine that actually can cause headaches. Factors in wine that may cause headaches to include histamines, amino acids, polyphenols, and other organic or non-organic compounds.
If in doubt, listen to your body and do not consume wines that cause headaches or any other symptoms.
Get the most out your favorite natural wines by pairing with delicious organic foods.
If you live near wine country, go visit organic vineyards! Many of those places do tours and will help you understand first-hand what it means to practice organic grape growing.
Do you prefer to drink organic wines? If so, what are your favorite brands?