Organic foods are all the rage today. Lots of folks are trying to eat cleaner and are interested in foods that are less processed with less preservatives. So why not find wine that is cleaner and better for you?
By: Laurie Collins, CEO and Co-founder of Sip Happens Wine Shoppe****
In the wine world, there’s an abundance of certifications indicating a healthier wine: certified organic; made with organically grown grapes; biodynamic; sustainably farmed; dry farmed — and many more. IT’S SO CONFUSING! So, what is the dealio? In an attempt to simplify, let’s break these terms down into easy-to-understand concepts so you know what to look for in your wine. It’s important to keep in mind that the certification standards do differ slightly between U.S. and European wine-making standards. In Europe, many winemakers have been making wine organically for years. Certification fees are costly. They grow and produce wines organically out of history and stewardship to the land. Farming organically is healthy for their family and the generations thereafter.
First, a word on sulfites… all wines have naturally occurring sulfites. Sometimes, winemakers choose to add sulfites to increase the wine’s shelf life. Typically, organic wines and the like have little to no added sulfites.
Certified organic wines are produced from organically grown grapes (no use of chemicals in the vineyard), are non-GMO, with no use of commercial yeast and no added sulfites. A wonderful example of a certified organic wine is Vento di Mare Nero D’Avola.
On a side note, there is a difference between organic and vegan. The use of fining agents like egg whites can be used in the wine-making process with organic wine, which means the wine would not be considered vegan. If you’re looking for a vegan wine, give RAW Rosé or White Blend a try.
Organically Grown Grapes
Using organically grown grapes does not always designate that the wine is certified organic. In the U.S., there is a nuance that some winemakers follow that allows them to add “made with organic grapes” to the label. The winemaker must use grapes grown in a certified organic vineyard. However, during the wine-making process, they have the option of using native or commercial yeast and may add additional sulfites up to 100 ppm. There are many excellent choices of wine in this category. Lange Estate Pinot Gris and Volpaia Chianti Classico are lovely options.
Also known as Demeter certification, biodynamic wine growing and making is the practice of balancing between vine, man, earth and stars. It is a very holistic approach to agriculture. All tasks in the vineyard, from planting to pruning to harvesting are done by the biodynamic calendar (root, fruit, flower and leaf days). Additionally, the winemaker does not use any chemicals in the vineyard or manufactured additives, like commercial yeasts. However, they can add up to 100 ppm additional sulfites during the wine-making process. OPS Garnacha by Loxarel is a tasty example of a biodynamic wine.
Dry farming does not mean the vines do not receive any water. Rather, the farmer depends solely on rain versus irrigation. Many winemakers believe wine should reflect the terroir or sense of place. Irrigation changes may prevent the true expression of the varietal. However, some regions with hot climates, like South America, can’t practice dry farming. They believe responsible irrigation actually produces higher quality wine for their region. Looking to try a dry farmed wine? Illahe Estate Pinot Noir is quite delightful.
If you are choosing a wine that has any one of these designations certifying them organic, sustainable or otherwise, then know that you’re headed in a healthier direction. The bottom line is that these wines have less additives and no chemicals used in the vineyard, which means they are definitely more health conscious.