The general public is on the lookout for healthier choices for the products they consume. Alongside a focus on a smaller carbon footprint, wine is one of the products people are evaluating. As a result, organic wine’s popularity has soared. In fact, from 2012 to 2017, organic wine sales have doubled to a staggering 676 million bottles. But, what is organic wine? Explore the organic phenomenon and what sets it apart from other wines in the market.
What is ‘Certified Organic’ Wine?
‘Certified Organic’ is a very specific term. In the U.S., under the USDA’s organic program, ‘Certified 100% Organic’ means that all the ingredients in a product must be grown or raised according to the USDA’s organic standards, which are the rules for producing products that are labeled organic. Currently, there is no governing body that determines what makes a wine organic. The rules and regulations are defined on a country-by-country basis.
Requirements for Organic Wine
The most important requirements for a wine to be called organic include:
- Only organic grapes are used. 100% of the grapes need to be grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides, without the use of chemical fertilizers, or other synthetic chemicals
- Only a minimal use of natural preservatives is allowed
- Genetically-Modified Organisms (found in some yeasts) are not allowed
- Flavouring agents and colours are not allowed to be added
U.S. organic winemakers are not allowed to add additional sulfites, which are used as a preservative. In Europe and Canada, they are. However, natural sulphites are found in the winemaking process by default, which are different from added sulphites.
Is Organic Wine Better?
There is a lot of debate on whether or not organic wine is better than ‘conventional’ wine.
Is Organic Wine Healthier?
In terms of your health, organic is generally the better choice. Organic grapes produce more resilient skins, and higher amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols.
Does Organic Wine Taste Better?
When it comes to taste, the jury is still out. There are many who do not think the quality of organic wines is there and many people actually avoid them. While others rave about how much better it tastes. Some wineries actively choose NOT to put an organic label on their wines. Wineries may also hide it on the back of the bottle because of the public’s perception of quality.
It’s also worth mentioning, organic wines have a shorter shelf life. Consequently, wine can turn into vinegar if they are kept too long.
Choosing The Right Wine
Organic wines can be difficult to find. If you are looking for these wines, you’ll have more success starting with wines from Spain, France, and Italy. These countries produce 73% of the organic vineyards in the world. By contrast, the U.S. only produces 2%.
If you are on the hunt for new wines, pay close attention. Wine companies often mention they follow “organic farming practices”, despite not being certified. There are more organic options than ever before if you do a little digging.
Look for the USDA seal for U.S. wines or for the words ‘organically grown grapes’. Labels with the words ‘green’, ‘natural’, or ‘eco-friendly’ do not necessarily mean that they are organic.