Organic wines are generally defined as those that were produced from grapes that are organically grown. Organic farming of grapes is a system wherein the use of chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers is discouraged. It uses alternative methods of fertilization such as the use of compost or organic fertilizers and other cultural practices that prevent weeds, plant diseases and insect pests without the use of chemical pesticides.
Organic wines are not only about organically grown grapes. Their creation also covers the methodology in processing the wine. It discourages the addition of chemical preservatives that is normally used to make the wine last longer. The preservatives are needed for the aging process and it normally determines its price. Wine gets better as it ages, and some inorganic chemicals are needed to improve its flavor, enabling it to get better rankings with the wine tasters.
Organic wines have their benefits. They are a healthier alternative to non-organic wines. And with the current trend of eating more organic food, people are opting for it. Therefore, some standards have to be established to what makes a certain wine as organic. This is where a big gray area exists. How does one determine whether a certain system is organic or not?
To answer this question particularly for organic wines, let us examine the two categories stated above:
Organically grown grapes
There have been debates on what makes a certain farming method organic. Some schools of thought go to extremes. As an example, for compost needed in growing grapes to be branded as organic, the materials used for decomposition should also come from sources free of inorganic chemicals. So, in effect, manure from farms that uses antibiotics and other chemical feed supplements does not meet the requirements of material suitable for composting.
To resolve this issue, in 1990, an organic food production act was signed into law in the US, which certifies organically grown crops. Other countries around the world followed, but the amount of inorganic chemicals allowed in their food production differs, so it will be wise to check.
The main concern in the process is the addition of sulfites that prolongs the shelf life of wine, helps assure stable wine quality. These are the reason why many of the wine producers find it very difficult to adhere the standards necessary to be certified 100% organic. The Department of Agriculture has declared that, in order for categorized organic wine to pass the following:
- Grapes or fruits fermented must be organically grown.
- The wine’s natural sulfites must not exceed 20 parts per million.
- The wine must not have sulfite additives or any inorganic preservatives.
This strict provision in labeling organic wines is the reason why there are very few organic wines available in the market. Those wine producers that use organically grown grapes or fruits cannot affix the label ‘certified organic’ to their wines if they cannot follow organic processing. They could, however, label it “made from organic grapes”. Today, if you find a label that states that is 100% organic wine, then you can be sure that it followed the conditions above.