The time has come. Organic wine consumers now have the power to help change the USDA’s definition of Organic Wines. The change will bring about a huge resurgence in consumers’ opinions about organic wines. Not only will consumers be less confused, but they will be reassured that the wines they are consuming are truly organic!
In order to use the USDA Certified Organic seal, a wine made with organic grapes must not contain added sulfites. Even though it took an act of congress (Boxer McConnell Amendment to the Organic Foods Production Act in October, 2000) to allow organic wine makers to use sulfites, only no-sulfite-added (NSA) wines may display the USDA organic seal on the front label.
Sulfites, also known as Sulfur Dioxide, are a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation. Since 1487, winemakers have added sulfites to wine to prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria and to preserve the quality and shelf-life of the bottled product. Sulfites keep wine stable during transportation and storage. Additionally, they allow the wine to properly age.
The Sulfites Issue
According to the diligent research by the Organic Wine Company, the number of allergy sufferers to sulfur dioxide is so minimal (0.4% of the population, mostly asthmatics) that I do not believe it constitutes holding back all organic consumers. There are however several wonderful wineries that have captured the no-sulfites-added (NSA) organic wine market for those that cannot consume any sulfites.
Besides wine, someone with a sulfite allergy cannot consume both organic and conventional dehydrated fruit, fruit juice and concentrated fruit, jams, jellies, most syrups, baked goods, sugar, cake toppings, pizza dough, frozen and dehydrated potatoes, processed vegetables, cheeses, as well as in many prescription drugs, unless it is labeled sulfite-free.
Creating Accountability for Organic Wine
Under current USDA ruling, wines stating that they are “made with organic grapes” can use 30% non-organic grapes and added sulfites not exceeding 100 parts per million (ppm).
Wine made from 100% organic grapes with permissible added sulfites (not to exceed 100 ppm) are limited to communicating its organic claim to “made with organic grapes” and MAY NOT display the USDA organic seal. *Conventional wines in the US may contain sulfites up to 350 ppm.
This brings up an interesting point. How are consumers supposed to know which wines are really 100% organic if they are not allowed to display the USDA seal or use the words “100% organic” on the wine label? If wine made from 100% organic grapes with permissible added sulfites could be labeled as “organic wine” and display the USDA Organic Seal, consumers would feel more trustworthy of the organic claim and the organic wine movement would gain a larger market share.
There are many of us who want to purchase wine made with 100% organic grapes and feel assured that they are truly organic.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://organicwineexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Tiffany_Small_Photo-1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]In graduate school, Tiffany studied agricultural trade policy and its affects on food security and national sovereignty. Today, Tiffany writes about organic food and wine and unveils best practices in the sustainable wine industry on her website, EticaWines.com.
If the link above does not work please send an email with your own message, or the one below, to:
To the National Organic Standards Board,
I am writing on behalf of the petitioners to amend annotation for Sulfur Dioxide to allow wine with minimal amounts of Sulfur Dioxide added to be labeled as ‘Organic’ instead of ‘Made with Organic Grapes’ and fully support the petition’s intention.
As an organic consumer, I find it hard to decipher organic wine labels; a few have the USDA organic seal while the majority does not and there are other unregulated claims such as eco-friendly, eco-farmed and sustainable that further muddy the waters.
I am also aware that a wine “made with organic grapes” could contain up to
30 percent non-organic grapes. I do not want this pollution in my wine and the USDA organic seal would give me that trusted assurance. Currently, the ‘organic wine’ category is too small and predominantly domestic; my organic wine choices are very limited.
It is my understanding that if the annotation is amended, there will be a significant growth and choices in wines labeled “organic” with the USDA organic seal I can trust.
Organic consumers need more quality assurance, more trust, more consistency, and more organic wine choices. This annotation amendment seems like a perfect solution.
Thank you for your consideration.