Is Organic Wine Better?
Bridget Reed @ 2021-12-16 08:34:17 -0800
Like any food, it’s important to choose wine made using the best ingredients.
It’s becoming more widely understood that organic crops yield foods that are more nutritionally valuable and don't degrade the environment. That’s a win-win. Organic wine is no different.
By choosing organic wine, you’re avoiding potentially harmful synthetic chemicals and getting the most of wine’s flavor.
In this guide, we’ll tell you how to distinguish organic wine from regular ("conventional") wine and the proven ways of why going organic is superior.
What’s the Difference Between Organic Wine and Regular Wine?
Okay, so what does “regular wine” mean? As it turns out, all wine is not made the same.
Regular wine is conventional or commercial wine. This means the wine was made with lots of technological intervention to clean the wine and make each harvest year taste uniform.
Conventional winemakers typically prioritize profit, while organic winemakers prioritize environmental sustainability and a nuanced flavor profile. Regular wine is typically grown in large crops, which unfortunately creates wines with less-concentrated flavor. These bulk crops also mean that there’s less clean-up once the grapes leave the vineyard and enter the winery.
Conventional wine uses additives, higher levels of sulfur dioxide, and filtration and fining methods that worry more sensitive consumers.
As a result, regular wine tends to be less expensive and provide a less complex flavor profile. On the other hand, organic wine practices devote plenty of energy to maintaining vineyard health, which costs more but shows on the palate.
What Are Additives in Wine?
Seventy-two additives are permitted in American wines. History tells us that laws around what is and isn’t permitted in food don’t always correlate with what is actually safe.
It can take time for a government to recognize a harmful product and regulate its use. It’s important to learn about what’s in the products you’re consuming, understand why these ingredients are used, and decide for yourself what you want to consume.
Here are some additives that are used in wine and their uses.
Filtering and Fining Agents
Filtration and fining are necessary for unconventional wines, which tend to arrive in the winery with particulate matter that vintners must filter out before it gets bottled. Organic wine produces a cleaner wine that doesn’t need to be aggressively filtered, a process that often compromises subtle aromas in great wine.
Some fining agents include:
Preservatives and Stabilizers
Preservatives have been used for centuries, and their main job is to extend the shelf life of a product. For wine, stabilizers help keep the wine fresher longer after it comes into contact with oxygen.
Some preservatives in wine include:
-Dimethyl Dicarbonate ("Velcorin")
What Are Sulfites?
Sulfur dioxide has become a controversial ingredient in wine, though sulfur allergies occur at very low rates. Nonetheless, there’s a heated debate between organic winemakers and the rest of the wine industry about how much sulfites damage a wine.
Many consumers find that wines that aren’t loaded with added sulfites create fewer unwanted side effects like headaches. Scientists haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of the mystery of the wine headache, which isn’t surprising when you think about how complicated wine is and how mysterious the human body can be.
Still, there are some things we know about sulfites.
First, sulfites are short for sulfur dioxide, a compound formed from sulfur and oxygen. Sulfites are naturally occurring during the winemaking process. What this means is: you can’t avoid them completely. But these sulfites aren’t the ones on the current hot seat.
Sulfur dioxide is also added after harvest to prevent spoilage and after fermentation to stabilize the wine, which may have a long way to travel once it’s bottled. This ingredient increases the time the wine will retain its flavor profile after it has been opened and starts interacting with oxygen.
Essentially, it keeps your wine fresh... for a few days, at least.
Sulfites in the U.S.
In 1988, the US passed a law that required any wine sold within the county that contained more than ten parts per million of sulfites to put “contains sulfites” on the label. In fact, the major difference between certified organic wine and wine that says “made with organic grapes” comes down to the level of sulfites in your bottle.
In the US, certified organic wines follow strict regulations. The grapes are organically farmed, and all ingredients used during winemaking are organic, including the yeast used to ferment the wine. Most significantly, no added sulfur dioxide is permitted.
Wines that contain organic grapes but aren’t certified organic mean just what they say: the grapes were grown organically. Still, there’s one big difference. A maximum of 100 ppm of sulfites is permitted in these wines.
To make things even more confusing, European bottles labeled “organic wine” are also allowed to have a max of 100 ppm of sulfites. It’s important to understand the difference between a bottle that says “organic wine” and “organic grapes,” but it’s also important to note where the bottle originated and what that might imply.
What Are the Three Major Reasons to Choose Organic Wine?
So, you’re going to spend a few extra bucks on a bottle of organic wine. What’s in it for you? Here are the three scientifically-proven reasons why it's better..
Benefit #1: Fewer pesticides and better for the environment.
Organic farmers don’t use synthetic chemical pesticides. Instead, they put in more work and money to handle the problem of pests with their hands, organic pesticides (sometimes), or natural fertilizers.
Many chemical pesticides have been classified as “probable human carcinogens,” which can be harmful after long-term exposure to the people that work the farms. Furthermore some pesticides also destroy the life that exists in soil, and degrade the very earth that we need to grow grapes. As well as harm watershed.
Benefits #2: Better for the liver and kidney.
Organically grown crops contain 48% less cadmium, a heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys. Repeated exposure can lead to kidney and liver damage. Cadmium is used in non-organic fertilizers.
Benefits #3: Significantly higher levels of antioxidants.
Organically grown wine has higher antioxidant levels, especially red wines.
Organic wine contains up to 30% more Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes' stems, seeds, and skins. Resveratrol lowers your risk of cancer and heart disease. Although we will caveat, the levels of resveratrol required to be beneficial are so high, that the negatives of consuming that much alcohol outweigh any benefits by a country mile. LOL we do not recommend drinking wine for antioxidants.
Choosing organic wine is a powerful social statement.
What’s better for your body is usually better for the environment, too. That means drinking organic wine is a win-win.
The popularity of organic wine isn’t just about growing trends in consumer demand. Taking care of your land through sustainable farming techniques ensures that farmers can continue to make a living that supports their families for generations to come.
Plus, purchasing these products means that you recognize the bigger picture. We are directly related to our environment, and as a consumer, your power is in your wallet.
What you buy sends a message to the entire market, which is listening very carefully to your changing desires and priorities. The trend towards sustainable, environmentally friendly, and natural products has created a shift towards a healthier world.
And to think, all that from a glass of wine.
Are you looking for an organic wine? Try our Natural Wines, made with organic grapes and minimal intervention.