Three Primary Classifications: ORGANIC • BIODYNAMIC • SUSTAINABLE
On its most basic level, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes. Any vineyard growing in this manor would adhere to a specific practice and set of standards, including the soil they use and the way they maintain their vines. But what about the rest of the winemaking process?
Once the grapes are picked, there are a variety of methods a winemaker can use to produce an end result. Considerations are made such as additives chosen to enhance flavor, materials used to store the wine throughout the process, and the preferred bottling method with regards to preservation and shelf life.
“Made with organically grown grapes”
Wines with this label have a minimum of 70 per cent organic grapes, but are not the same as certified organic wines. They’re often processed using the same equipment and in the same facility as conventional wine, and may also contain sulphur dioxide.
Certified organic wine
Producers use 100 per cent organic grapes and can’t use toxic pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. Instead they fertilize with compost, compost teas, green manure, and cover crops. They also rely on mechanical weeding, mowing around the vines, mulching, and companion planting. To avoid using insecticides to control cutworms, they let chickens graze under the vines or handpick the worms off leaves. Certified organic wine doesn’t use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or contain sulfites (conventional wines use GMO yeast).
What is the Dilemma with Organic Wine?
The dilemma with organic wines (and what sets them apart from other organic foods) is the importance of sulphur-dioxide (SO2) in the winemaking process. Perhaps you’ve seen a lot more European organic (called ‘bio’) wines and this is because Europe has a different definition of organic:
USA: “a wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulfites”
EUROPE & CANADA: “a wine made from organically grown grapes that may contain added sulfites”
Organic wines from the US must not add sulfites, which in most scenarios greatly reduces a wine’s shelf life and, in some cases, can substantially change the flavor. Wineries find themselves in a quandary because spending the time to make organically grown grapes is immediately lost because they use SO2 in the bottling line.