Most people have heard and are familiar with organic food. However, not many know much about organic winemaking, what it is, what its basic principles are, and the benefits of it.
Here we will dive into the wonderful world of organic wines and all that it can bring to the table.
Organic winemaking 101
To begin, we need to go back to 1981 when the term “organic farming” was first introduced to the world. The legal definition of organic farming says it is “farming which uses no synthetic chemical products”. This means the farmers can’t use many types of fungicides, fertilizers, and pesticides that can have a negative influence on the environment.
But in winemaking, that’s only half the story as organic winemaking is a process that takes place in both the vineyard and the winery.
Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of buzz words thrown around that can leave you scratching your head. There is a big difference between “organic wine”, “organically grown grapes”, “sustainable”, “biodynamic”, “sulfur-free”, and so on. This being said, there are many health benefits associated with wine, and choosing the right wine can make a difference to the health benefits too.
Conventional vs. Organic winegrowing
In the United States, organic winemaking is a highly regulated process at all stages, such as harvesting, the yeast used for the fermentation, storage conditions, and so on. Those rules are applied to any domestic or imported wines interested in getting a USDA certificate.
The current standard in the US says that the sulfite level needs to be at max 20 parts per million. Only those wines with fewer sulfite levels can get a USDA certification and confirm they are organic wines. On the other hand, conventionally produced wines go untested for their sulfite levels.
Organic Wine Certification
Obtaining organic wine certification is a complex operation that requires meeting a set of certification criteria, which can vary from country to country. In the United States, the organic certification program is run by the National Organic Program, which is part of the country’s department of agriculture.
In the UK, they have their own governing body that is state-run, and that has a set of criteria for organic wine manufacturers. But unlike the US, they define organic wine just as one made out of organic grapes, while in the US, they also care about the process that turns grape into wine.
Reasons Why More Vineyards Don’t Aim for Organic Certification
One of the primary reasons why many wineries don’t consider organic certification is moisture and weather.
The thing is, it’s much easier to grow grape in areas with a warmer climate where the weather conditions are way more predictable, and there isn’t too much precipitation. For example, the Rhone Valley in France is a huge area where there is a significant number of organic wineries.
But then again you have wineries located in the northern regions like Chablis and Champagne. The weather conditions are way more unpredictable, which makes winegrowing way more challenging. The additional cost that follows organic winemaking is simply overwhelming, and wine producers have no other choice but to use standard production methods.
The third type of winemakers follow all the principles of organic winemaking but are not certified as such. Most of them find the certification process way too tedious and lengthy. That’s why they don’t bother with being certified. Furthermore, some of them want to keep their flexibility so that if it is necessary, they can use chemical products that are not permitted in organic wine production.
Why Should People Care?
Conventionally grown grapes are some of the most sprayed crops. That can have an effect not only on human health but on our ecosystem as well. The toxins used in conventional wine growing can pollute watersheds, deplete the soil, affect biodiversity, and so on.
On the flip side, organic wine production can protect the natural ecosystem, promote biodiversity, and is much healthier to consume. According to a study conducted by UC Davis, organically produced fruits and vegetables contain 58% more natural antioxidants than non-organic produce.
Governments worldwide have made it their priority to support organic wine production. That’s especially notable within the EU that invested hundreds of millions of euros each year to support organic winemaking.
By buying organic wine, you support conscientious winemakers. Furthermore, you encourage other winemakers to follow their example. On top of all, you show that you care about the environment and biodiversity.
The fact that you will be drinking wine free of all chemicals is another benefit. So, next time you search online or go to your favorite wine merchant, ask and seek for organic wines.
Last but not least, the organic wine market is already worth billions globally as more and more people are aware of what organic winemaking is all about. According to current projections, this segment of the wine market will grow in double digits in the next five years.