5 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Organic Wine
1) Don’t limit yourself to the organic section
2) Don’t trust the labels
3) Know how to find the good stuff and avoid the bad
4) It’s organic but is it natural?
5) It’s sustainable but is it organic?
Don’t limit yourself to the organic section and Don’t trust the labels
If your method of shopping for organic wine is looking for organic labels, or searching the ‘organic section’ of your favorite wine store, you may be getting ‘hit and miss’ results in terms of quality. You’re also going to miss out on some incredible organic wines that aren’t labelled. Here’s why:
In the world of organic wine there are some fantastic, high quality organic and biodynamic wines being made by passionate organic winemakers.
Some are proud to communicate their organic values by labelling their wine ‘organic’. Many more don’t label their wine ‘organic’ at all. These producers want to compete in the broader wine market purely on taste, and without being pigeonholed. For this very reason these unlabelled organic wines (which are actually some of the best) don’t show up in the organic section.
To complicate things further there also some really mediocre wines being made by companies looking to ride the organic bandwagon. With wine that doesn’t sell itself, and with nothing better to use as a marketing tool, these companies have begun making their wines organically. But they’re doing it without the passion for excellence you see in the best wineries. They’re hoping that uninformed consumers will buy their wine just because its labelled organic.
It helps to do some research before you shop – and if that’s not possible then organicwinefind.com can be accessed through your phone to that you can check wines ‘in store’.
How to find the good stuff?
At organicwinefind.com we’ve made it easy by identifying the ‘real deal’ in organic wine makers. We’ve also identified a huge range of ‘unlabelled’ organic wines. For the most part you can trust the vineyards listed on organicwinefind.com as being of consistently high quality and each vineyard profile shows where you can buy the wine locally. If you find a dud let us know and we’ll flag it!
Another approach to getting quality, is to buy from an organic wine specialist. Chambers Street Wine in New York has a great selection for example, as does Vintage Roots in the UK, and organicwine.com.au in Australia.
For international wines it helps to look at who imports them. This will often tell you about how the wine is made and the quality. For example in the USA importers like Louis Dressner, Kermit Lynch, and Jenny & Francois only deal with quality producers, and many of their wines are organic.
Deciding on sulphur
One of the key decisions you need to make in buying organic wine is where you stand on the addition of preservatives. Sulphur dioxide helps preserve wine so that it can age for a long period. It helps protect the wine from bacteria which can cause it to go off. Some organic producers make organic wine without adding sulphur, but most organic wine producers do use preservatives in small quantities. The main argument against sulphur on a health basis is that some people have a mild allergic reaction. It also contributes to a morning after “hangover” (although it’s not the only factor).
Here a a few points on labelling so you know what to expect :
To be officially labelled “Organic Wine” in the USA, wine has to be produced without using any added sulphur dioxide. Organic wine that has sulphur added is labelled “wine made with organic grapes”. In Europe, wine cannot be labelled as “Organic Wine” – it can only be labelled as “made with organic grapes” even if it has no sulphur. A label can be added saying “no added sulphur” . In Australia, wine labelled as “organic wine” may still have added sulphur, although much less than conventional wines.
Biodynamic wine is also organic wine. Grapes are farmed using additional holistic techniques. Biodynamic wine will likely also contain added sulphur unless labelled otherwise.
Its organic but is it ‘natural’?
Many organic wines are made with minimal intervention in the wine making process. Fermentation is often done using the grapes’ own wild yeast.
This is in contrast to most conventional wine which is made with industrial, synthetic yeasts designed to modify the wine’s flavor. Conventional winemakers often employ other techniques such as reverse osmosis, which removes water and concentrates the wine’s flavor. You can read more about it in this article at wineanorak.com.
There is a growing ‘natural wine’ movement which advocates making wine with ‘nothing added, and nothing taken away’.
It’s important to know before you buy, that organic wines are not always made in this way. Some organic winemakers still use various techniques to manipulate and, in their opinion, enhance the taste of their wine. Although these wines are still made with organic grapes, there is a debate as to whether they are entirely ‘natural’ — and a continuing diologue about what ‘natural’ really means.
Winemakers that work with minimal intervention will usually describe how they make their wine in detail. If you’re looking for a truly ‘untouched’ wine it helps to read the winemakers notes which can often be found on their website. Organicwinefind.com has profiles for more than 700 organic wineries, including links to the winery websites.
It’s sustainable but is it organic?
If you see a label that says ‘sustainable’, don’t assume that the wine is organic. With increasing awareness of the environment, there are a growing number of wineries farming using using sustainable methods. Encouraging biodiversity in the vineyard, water recycling, and using biodiesel are a few examples. Some of these wineries are also organic but not necessarily. Some use ‘soft’ chemicals on a rotating basis – arguing that this is better than organic because it reduces the number of times that vines need to be treated, and reduces the use of diesel in tractors.
Organicwinefind.com has the largest online reference of organic winemakers, helping you research vineyards and their wines, before you buy.