Happy New Year, everyone!
Vine reader rthomas asked for recommendations on organic wines. Honestly, I didn't know much about them, so to the research we go…
We humans are not the only creatures out there who enjoy the bounty of the vine. Plenty of critters like to eat the fruit, various pests and bugs damage grapes and vines in many ways, and weeds can choke out the vines as they grow. The manmade solution in recent years has been various chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides -- you get the idea. These chemicals can find their way into the wines and, thus, into us. Some wines are genetically altered to better handle climate conditions. There are various chemical fertilizers, and preservatives (usually sulfites) are added to the wine at bottling. To clear wines, "finings" are added to the wine to pull out the sediment. Some of these finings are chemical in nature (although they're usually egg whites or a type of clay called bentonite).
Very few wines are "straight from the vine" anymore. However, over the last few years, "organic wine" has become both an attempt to raise non-chemical laden wine as well as a marketing ploy
What is an organic food? The USDA definition for organic food is: "Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers; bio-engineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled 'organic,' a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards."
A number of wineries started selling "organic wine" -- organic wines are, simply put, wines made from organic grapes. There are three categories of organic wine:
- 100% Organic: These wines use only grapes certified as 100% organically grown with no preservatives.
- Organic: Refers to wines that have at least 95% of grapes from certified sources and may have some small amount of sulfites added.
- Made with Organic Grapes: These wines are at least 70% organically grown grapes and may have a "standard" amount of sulfites added.
Some wineries are using "biodynamic" techniques to grow grapes. These techniques are above and beyond "organic" -- as they use only the resources found in the vineyard to produce the grapes.
Most "certified USDA organic" wines you're going to find will be American. Only a very small number of Euro-wineries have been certified here. Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't organic wines in
So, what does this all mean to most wine drinkers? Some folks swear by organic wines -- say they taste better. If a wine doesn't have sulfites, it probably will also give you less of a headache if you overconsume a bit. Myself, I can't tell much of a difference. One place where you CAN generally tell the difference is on the pricetag. Not surprisingly, organic wines are going to set you back a bit of cash compared to "standard" wines. There are some in our range, though:
Bonterra 2004 Chardonnay -- A solid, decent Chardonnay from
Mas de Gourgonnier 2003 Les Baux de Provence-- From Provence in France -- this wine is a big French entry into the organic category. One sniff informs you immediately that this is an "
Until next time, keep it earthy.