Why You Should Be Drinking Organic Wine

By Kathryn Shanley

“Let things taste the way they are.” – Alice Waters, chef, author, and owner of Chez Panisse

Wine is a celebration of well-balanced taste, subtle aroma and silky texture. However, tantalizing fermented grape juice may not be the only ingredient dancing with your taste buds. Conventional winemakers add chemicals, stabilizing agents and sugar to their wines to increase shelf life, decrease oxidization and enhance flavour. But many wineries are getting back to “grassroots” by following the eco-friendly practices of organic farming and producing fine organic wines that can withstand the harshest scrutiny by wine enthusiasts worldwide.

What is Organic Wine?
Organic food aficionados have been jumping on the “chemical-free” bandwagon for years so it’s not surprising that organic wines have grown in popularity. To be classified as organic, wine has to be made using only certified organically grown grapes that have been produced without using any synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. And organic wines in the United States cannot have any added sulfites. A winery is considered organic after certification by an independent third party certifying agency.

The Sulfite Debate
Sulfites are one of the most misunderstood wine components that cause the most confusion for consumers. Since the 1800’s, sulfites have been approved for use in the United States as a food additive to prevent browning, control bacteria growth and act as an antioxidant. A whole host of foods contain sulfites including jam, cereal, dried fruits, wine, and many others.

Sulfites occur naturally during the fermentation process when making wine. In conventional winemaking, additional sulfites are added to wine as a preservative because of their strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Sulfites play a role in stabilizing wine preventing it from turning to vinegar. But some people are sensitive to sulfites and can suffer an allergic reaction. In the United States, sulfites cannot be added to wine if it’s going to be labelled organic with the exception of existing natural sulfites. However, other countries are not as strict about the addition of sulfites in their organic wines.

Put the Kibosh on Pesticides
According to Prevention Magazine, conventional wineries spray their vineyards with as many as thirty-five different pesticides and a whopping 86 percent of grapes test positive for pesticide contamination – that’s a lot of pesticide that can be left on the skins of grapes used in standard wine production. It’s no wonder savvy consumers are searching for alternatives to wines produced with conventionally harvested grapes.

Eco-friendly Farming Techniques
Farmers have developed some pretty creative ways to enrich the soil and protect their vineyards. Some wineries rely on wildlife to help prevent bugs from destroying their crops. At Frogpond Farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, guinea fowl wander through the vineyards eating insects. Frogpond Farm chose guinea fowl because of their rousting nature. Other farmers let chickens run through the grapevines eating destructive cutworms and allow sheep to roam among the vines eating weeds.

By letting birds and sheep take care of the pests and weeds, farmers can keep the soil rich in nutrients to grow healthy plants. Manure from animals fed chemically-free feed and compost made from fermented grape skins help farmers build organic matter in the soil.

Along with natural fertilizing techniques, planting crop cover between the rows of vines can suppress weeds, build productive soil, and control pests like spider mites and leafhoppers that can destroy grapes and vines. Crop cover acts as a natural habitat for beneficial insects including ladybugs, wasps and spiders so they can eat nasty insects that could damage the plants. Soil erosion is prevented by crop cover as it diminishes excess water and soil runoff during heavy rainfalls. During the drier times of the year, crop cover can reduce dust and improve air quality.

A Balanced Eco-system
Farmers of organic vineyards are all about protecting the environment from exposure to harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Because certified organic wineries don’t use synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, workers are not inhaling dangerous substances and neither are their visitors. Organic wineries are striving to achieve a balanced eco-system and farmers are constantly taking into consideration how their actions and farming techniques will affect the soil, wildlife, ground water, and air quality.

Organic wine is gaining in popularity among eco-friendly foodies as well as conventional wine drinkers who are becoming much more cognizant about what they’re consuming. Why not become an eco-friendly wine drinker? Invest in yourself and enjoy a bottle of certified organic wine. You’ll be glad you did.

About The Author

Kathryn Shanley

I'm Kathryn Shanley, freelance writer and editor at My Red Pen Editing. I'm a grammar geek who reads text books for fun. Really. That being said, I do have a humorous, more creative side that I often encourage to emerge in my writing. I'm all about working with words and making sure that you get the positive results you want from your writing.

2 Comments

  • Dimitri

    April 14, 2015

    Thanks Kathryn! A very good perspective from North American market – where organic certification indeed requires no sulphites added in the winemaking process. However, in the EU, organic status can be achieved only on the basis of organically grown grapes (it is quite tough as I’ve heard though!)
    There are thousands of wines on the shelves, so why not to try new and organic wines?

  • Kathryn Shanley

    April 14, 2015

    Thanks, Dimitri. The fewer chemicals we have to ingest the better!