As some of you wine lovers may have asked yourself, is organic wine really worth all the hype? What sets it apart from other wines and is it really any better than your average pour? In today's post, I'll break down what it takes to rep the organic wine seal and highlight some of the many ways organic wine is doing right by mother nature.
If you're a health nut like me, I'm sure your groceries don't hit the cart until you know exactly what's on the label. With an organic wine seal of approval, you can rest assured that the wine you toast with has many reasons to celebrate. Backed by the USDA National Organic Program, organic wine must adhere to the same standards as all organic products. This means that wine must be grown as well as processed organically from start to finish. It can only be made with approved substances, which protects us from harmful things like GMOs or even sewage sludge…yuck! And finally, to remain organic certified, a producer must pass yearly compliance checks by USDA inspectors. If that weren't enough, organic wine must adhere to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which sets the standard for wine formulation and labeling. Clearly, organic wine is a step above the rest.
To break it down for you, a certified organic wine has to pass a tough set of standards to make the cut. As you would except, all agricultural ingredients like the grapes themselves must be organic. This includes ingredients used in the fermentation process, like yeast, which should be organic unless the desired strain does not exist in organic form. And any non-agricultural ingredient used in the production of wine, like Vitamin C, known for its antioxidant abilities, must be included in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. These additives also cannot make up more than 5% of the total product. Last but not least, the use of added sulfites or sulfur dioxide is a definite no. Wine naturally produces sulfites on its own, but is commonly used in non-organic wine as a preservative. Even wine labeled "made with organic grapes", is a nice alternative to the conventional counterpart. Although it doesn't meet the criteria of a fully organic wine, it comes at a close second. For example, all grapes must be organically certified, however all agricultural ingredients, including the yeast, do not. These wines are also allowed to have 100 ppm of sulfur dioxide, but must still contain non-agricultural ingredients approved by the National list. To me, organic wine symbolizes certified quality with a proven track record.
Because I'm a tree huggin hippie at heart, what I love most about the organic brand, is what it represents for our planet. When a wine producer decides to go organic, he doesn't just commit to using less pesticides or herbicides, he commits to a new level of environmental stewardship that starts from the ground up. Because organic farmers must rely on more sustainable practices, they end up creating top notch soil, heavy in organic matter. As organic content goes up, so does the soil's ability to hold oxygen and water, which leads to higher yields and overall soil health. The soil also becomes better equipped at locking in nutrients like carbon and nitrogen, which although are great for plants, are not so good when released in our atmosphere. When these elements take hold of our airways, they quickly turn into notorious greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which in excess amounts, can really do damage. And with healthier soil, the need for agrichemicals like fertilizer and pesticides, that use up fossil fuel energy to produce, begins to drop. When we really look at, soil high in organic content does a much better job at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while lowering our dependency on energy intensive agrichemicals.
More organic content can also increase biodiversity, as beneficial soil microorganisms are given more of what they need to grow. When these critters get to working, they do all kinds of fun things like improve nutrient and water availability, as well as decrease the number of disease-causing pathogens found in our soil. And finally, organic producers do their part in a major way by improving the quality of our H20. As mentioned, soil rich in organic content does much better at holding in nutrients like nitrogen and nitrates, that although are good for soil, are not so good when leached into our groundwater. And after a heavy rainfall when nitrates make their make their way into our lakes and oceans, this flood of nutrients creates the perfect storm for algae blooms to throw off an ecosystem. Clearly, organic production has the winning qualities of a superstar method, with impacts felt on a global scale.
With so much planning, foresight, and creativity that goes into creating one batch of organic wine, every bottle is like sipping a masterpiece. But what's so amazing about this level of craftsmanship, is how much good can come out it. So often we become consumers of useless junk, but when we spend our hard-earned dollars on earth conscious products, we can really make a difference. When we put our money towards organic brands, we tell producers that we want more of it, which inspires others to jump on the band wagon. So don't have shame in your game, drink up, cause when you drink organic, you're drinking for a worthy cause.