Is Organic Wine Better?
Robyn Bera © 072013.
Calling All Wineaux's ...!
I am an absolute, self-proclaimed Wineaux. I love all colors and most flavors of the intoxicating and satisfying liquid. I adore a crisp and light Sauvignon Blanc on a warm summer day. I’ll take a deep and hearty red Cabernet Sauvignon just about any night of the week. I love pairing wine with food and letting the magical flavors dance and change on my pallet. I take immense pleasure in letting a wine age and in exploring the mystery that each bottle holds. I yearn for the adventure of new wines and the discovery of unique flavor profiles. Wine is part of my family and part of my heritage. It is family, laughter, conversation, adventure, and love.
Having committed to living a toxic-free life, I diligently eat organic and GM free. Eventually I had to accept that wine is no different. Just like the toxins found in commercial produce, wine grapes can be saturated in chemicals. Even worse, wine-grapes aren’t washed before crush. So all of those herbicides and pesticides get ground right into your bottle of wine. This reality devastated me. Must I too give up my favorite beverage? Could my nearly 15 year love-affair with vino be over?
Cast your vote here!
Do you think organic wine is better?
Fewer Chemicals. More Nutrients!
Conventional wine grapes in America are treated like any other mass-produced agricultural product. They are sprayed with an array of chemicals and known carcinogens to reduce pests, viruses, weeds and fungi. Soil is given additives to increase yields. California grapes in particular have a high percentage of fluoride. Often animal by-products, like gelatin (derived from animal hooves), isinglass (fish) and casein (milk protein) are used in the winemaking process. Where do the fish come from? China? Are these milk cows fed GM-grain? Traditional labeling allows for too many questions.
All wines contain sulphur dioxide, otherwise known as sulphites. Sulphites are a natural by-product of fermentation. It’s not necessarily bad for you unless you have an allergy, but the problem is that sulphites are in so many processed foods nowadays that many of us are on sulphite overload. This can create an allergy, headaches, nausea, and other complications. Although it’s naturally occurring, conventional Winemakers add additional sulphites for preservation and aging. Certified organic wines contain less than 100 parts per million (ppm) of sulphites whereas traditional wines contain up to 350 ppm.
Organic wines have been found to have significantly more nutrients and antioxidants as well. Yes that’s right, organic wine has nutritional benefits! Organic wines contain more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are literally better for you! Additionally, one study showed that organic wines are of better quality and have a “higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavymetals.”
Just as you might spend a few extra dollars on a loaf of artisan bread, pizza, or anything else handmade, organic wine is truly handcrafted. It usually requires more intensive labor via the methods of organic farming and biodiversity.
Better for the Earth
Obviously the avoidance of harsh chemicals and synthetic herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers is better for the environment. Winery runoff does create pollution. Organic wine has a lower carbon footprint than traditional wine simply because fewer chemicals are used. Organic crops have been shown to increase bee production and population, as well as increase other natural insects and wildlife.
Biodynamic farming, which usually goes hand-in-hand with organic farming, emphasizes holistic development and the interrelationship of the soil, plants, and animals, as a self-sustaining system. It emphasizes working with Mother Nature, rather than against her.
Organic wine is better for YOU and better for the EARTH.
Which Tastes Better?
That’s the real question, right? Ill be honest, flavor is particularly important to me.
In a 2010 taste test by Fortune Magazine, a blind tasting revealed that biodynamic wines were superior to traditional. This test was done by seven Sommeliers. Nine out of ten biodynamic wines were found better. They were also found to have better expression of terroir, which means that the aroma and flavor was characteristic of its region. So, organic wines may give a more honest representation of the wine growing region itself.
I love the flavor of organic wine. Like most other organic food, the taste is cleaner. There is no aftertaste, no bitterness, no harsh flavors. The aroma, or “nose,” is pure and immediate. Too much sulfur can give the wine a chemical smell and flavor. There is also the psychological aspect of knowing that the wine your drinking is good for you and for the earth, which must play a role in how your brain decodes the information your palate is giving it.
If you're one of those people who gets "wine headaches." I encourage you to try a bottle of organic and see if you have a different reaction. It could be those darn sulfites.
Decoding the Label
As with all USDA labeling in the U.S., organic labels can be confusing. I’ve written more extensively about his topic in other articles.
An “organic” label means the wine has 95% organic ingredients and less than 100 ppm of “naturally” occurring sulphites.
Watch out for “made with organic ingredients.” This label means that only 70% of the wine is organic and it can have artificial sulphites.
USDA does require that wine grapes are organically grown for three years before the certification can be granted.
- More expensive than traditional wines
- Fewer options/flavors available
- May not keep for long periods of time like traditional wines
- Can be more sensitive to light and heat variations
The Bottom Line
If you regularly consume wine please consider the impact that wine has on your health and on the environment. You can possibly improve both. So, why not try it? Swapping a bottle of organic wine into your regular rotation is a great way to explore new wines and enjoy the benefits of organic. Some experts agree that it might even taste better too.
Learn more about organic wine at http://www.organicwinejournal.com/.
This article was written by Robyn Bera © 072013.
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