What is Organic Wine?
Organic wines are made from grapes grown using techniques that are pure and protect the ecosystem around the vineyard. For a wine to be labeled ‘certified organic’, it can’t have any added sulfites or non-organic elements included in the winemaking process.
It’s important to note that just because a wine is organic it doesn’t mean that there are no additives involved. Yeast, egg whites, and animal enzymes are allowed to be added. Yes, this means that wines are rarely vegan.
What is Biodynamic Wine?
Biodynamic winemaking is an agricultural practice that dates back nearly a century. Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner founded the method in the 1920s and it revolves around a complex astrological calendar.
Each day of the farming process coincides with one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The days are organized into fruit days, root days, leaf days, and flower days. Fruit days are preferable for grape harvesting, root days for pruning, and leaf days for watering. On flower days, the vineyard is left untouched.
The Different Categories of Organic Wine
Depending on where you are in the world, there are different categories of organic wine. In the United States, there are two different categories; those that are certified by the USDA and those made with organic grapes.
Wines that are USDA certified follow strict regulations. The grapes must be grown without any use of synthetic fertilizers, and all ingredients included must also be certified organic. There are no sulfites allowed to be added. You can identify these bottles by a USDA seal.
For a wine to have a label with the phrase ‘made with organic grapes’, the additional products don’t have to be natural, but the grapes must be produced without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The wine must be bottled in an organic facility, and the sulfites must be limited to 100 parts per million or less.
Canadian standards resemble those in the US, though more sulfites could be added to extend shelf-life. In Europe, winemakers were allowed to label bottles as “organic wine” starting in 2012. The difference between these wines and those produced in the US is that there are more sulfites allowed.
Wines Made With Organic Grapes
If you’ve ever been searching for this type of wine, you’ve probably noticed two standard labels. Some wines are ‘organic’, and others have a say on the bottle that they're ‘made with organically grown grapes’.
If the latter is the case, it means that there were no pesticides or synthetics used in the vineyard for producing the grapes. That said, additives like sulfates may have been included in the winemaking process.
For a wine to be certified, it must not only be made of organic grapes, but it also has to be free of any added sulfites or non-organic elements.
What are Sulfites?
Sulfates, otherwise known as Sulfur Dioxide or SO2, are used in many products that we regularly consume. The purpose of sulfites is to prevent spoilage and browning. Many conventional wines contain added sulfites, especially wines that are imported from great distances.
A common misconception is that there’s such a thing as sulfite-free wine. In reality, sulfites are a naturally occurring by-product of fermenting grapes. They occur in low amounts during the process, but some winemakers add synthetic sulfites to retain flavor, extend shelf-life, and control bacteria.
Sulfites are also blamed for the headaches that some people get after drinking wine, though there’s no scientific evidence to back up this connection. Dried fruits and juices have much more sulfites than any wine. However, for wine to be certified, it can’t contain any added sulfites.
What is the Dilemma with Organic Wine?
Since the standards vary depending on where it’s coming from, it can be hard to identify precisely how natural your ‘organic wine’ is. European and Canadian wines may have more sulfites than those from the US.
USDA certified organic wines don’t have any sulfates, which reduces its shelf life and can impact flavor.
What are Non-Organic Wines
If a wine isn’t organic, that means that there are various chemicals and additives involved in the production. It’s common for vineyards to use pesticides and fungicides in areas of the world that have a lot of moisture in the air. In the bottling of the wine, it’s typical for winemakers to add elements like sulfur and something called Mega Purple.
Difference Between Organic and Biodynamic Wine
Biodynamic wines are typically considered organic because the grapes are grown in a very natural way. These wines don’t incorporate any synthetic chemicals in the winemaking process and no additives are allowed. Sulfites are permitted, so depending on the country, biodynamic wines aren’t certified organic.
Buying wine that’s free of harmful ingredients doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a loss in quality. In this section, we’ll list a few of the best organic wine options available today.
Best Organic Champagne: Robert Barbichon, Réserve 4 Cépages
If you’re a fan of bubbly, you must try the Robert Barbichon Réserve 4 Cépages Brut Champagne 2017. This champagne is composed of 4 varietals, which is pretty rare. It’s made of 70% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, 10% chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Blanc. It’s dry, fresh, fruity, and sophisticated but juicy.
Organic White Wine: Badger Mountain, Riesling
The 2018 Badger Mountain Riesling is at the top of our list for best organic white wine. It’s packed with exotic aromas of kiwi, lemongrass, and lime. It’s both deliciously crisp and perfectly acidic.
Domaine Bousquet Virgen Organic Red Blend
Our favorite versatile organic red wine is from the vineyard of Domaine Bousquet. The 2018 Virgen Organic Red Blend is fully USDA certified. It’s a mix of 35% Malbec, 35% Pinot Noir, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s very flavorful, and you can taste the pure expression of the foothills of the Andes, where this wine is made.
Best Organic Boxed Wine
Many eco-friendly wine drinkers prefer to drink from the box, as it produces the lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste. Our favorite is From the Tank’s Vin Blanc. This 100% organic chardonnay is easy to drink and juicy.