The Top Five Reasons to Buy Organic Wines
These days, organic products seem to rule the world. Organic produce is prized at the grocery store, we seek out meat that has been farmed organically, and even our clothing is more and more frequently being made from fabrics like organic cotton and silk.
Naturally, the “trend” has spilled over into the wine industry as well, but it’s not as recent of a fad that one might think.
Organic wines have been on the market since the 1980s, but the quality was slightly lacking in its first iterations. Winemakers have since adjusted their production processes accordingly, resulting in organic wine being named one of the ‘hottest drink trends for 2009’ in a research survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association in the United States.
But apart from the “hip” factor, why should you purchase organic wine rather than the regular stuff?
Here are five of the best reasons:
1. They often taste better
For many wine drinkers, taste is by far the most important factor. After all, why do we drink wine? Usually it is because we need a tasty beverage to pair with food or enjoy with friends. Wine is a great choice because of its many nuances and endless possibilities for conversation and education.
Organic wines are produced with almost obsessive attention to detail. The sorting table is scrutinized for unhealthy grapes and fermentation takes place with natural rather than artificial yeast, but even before making it out of the vineyard the grapes have begun their journey towards excellence. The vines must struggle to find water underground, and in doing so they develop complex and deep root systems, leading to greater complexity and concentration in the character of the final product.
Sure, not all organic wine is exceptional, but the fact that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the Burgundy producer often considered to be the best (and certainly the most expensive) in the world is produced organically definitely seems to provide some supporting evidence in favor of the practice.
2. They contain fewer (or no) chemicals:
Certified organic wineries are forbidden from using pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers to grow their grapes. Instead, they resort to natural solutions such as compost, compost teas, and green manure for fertilizer; mechanical weeding and careful mowing in place of herbicides, and careful hand-picking or grazing chickens to eliminate vineyard pests. GMO organisms are strictly forbidden as well, so unlike conventional wines where the practice is common, organic wines are guaranteed not to contain GMO yeast.
Sulfites are used with discretion in small quantities, or not at all. If you have any chemical sensitivities or are concerned about the effects of pesticides, organic wines are likely a safer choice for you.
3. They are often more socially responsible
Many wineries that are committed to organic production are also highly concerned with sustainability and ethical treatment of both their land and their workers. Species native to the vineyards are preserved rather than eradicated, native shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses that have been uprooted to clear land for the vines are replanted, and losing some of their crop to local wildlife like hungry bears is accepted as an expected part of the harvest.
Equal attention is paid to both maintaining the quality of soil and the quality of living of those who work in the vineyard. Carbon footprints are kept to as much of a minimum as possible. While different vineyards vary in their level of participation in these ethical processes, supporting organic wine frequently means supporting a healthier earth and happier workers.
4. Organic wines are less prone to vintage variation than conventional wines
In a poor vintage, conventionally grown grapes suffer greatly. They fail to reach full ripeness, produce woefully low yields, and succumb to the diseases that occasionally run rampant in vineyards.
Proponents of organic wine believe that their grapes have greater natural resistance to inclement weather and disease, therefore performing better than their non-organic counterparts in less-than-spectacular vintages. This means that when you find a trusted producer of organic wines, you may not have to worry as much that the subsequent vintages will measure up to the level of quality that you have so enjoyed!
5. They are affordable:
There may be a small premium to pay for organic wines, but it is generally no less than the price increase between a mass-produced conventional wine and a higher-quality, smaller production conventional wine. You are paying more for the extra labor and increased costs that go into the production of a superior wine, for example lower yields (which result in more concentrated flavors), careful hand-picking and sorting, and time spent making organic preparations rather than purchasing chemicals.
For great values in organic wine, look to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, the country’s biggest organic wine region. Excellent bottles of Syrah- and Grenache-based blends can be found here for as little as $10-$20 per bottle.
Not only do organic wines have the potential to be healthier for you, the environment, and society, but they also have the added benefit of tasting just as good as (if not better than) conventional wines for comparable prices.
If you’ve been afraid to try organic wines or have been avoiding them thinking that the “trend” would soon pass, perhaps next time you are shopping for wine you will reconsider the many advantages that they have to offer.