Organic is quite trendy these days. From insecticide-free apples to chemical-free dry cleaning, all types of industries are becoming responsible and jumping onto the organic bandwagon. But is organic worth the price?
When it comes to wine, the price often doesn’t reflect the extra steps and care that go into the making of a “pure” product. Read on to get a better understanding of organic wine, and learn why you should embrace it. Take this with a grain of salt (or quinoa!), and keep in mind that "organic" tends to have different interpretations—much like "environmentally friendly."
Organics In The Vineyard.
You can’t make organic wine without organic grapes. This means the grapes are grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. Beginning in the 20th century, these aids have been used to protect vines from pests, as well as for managing weeds. But in recent decades, growers have reinvented ingenious methods for eliminating pests in the vineyard without using chemicals. From introducing the natural enemies to vineyard insect pests for population control to growing cover crops for soil maintenance and weed management, many wineries have returned to the natural growing approaches of the old world while providing sustainability for their nutrient-rich soils.
…And At The Winery.
Once organic grapes are harvested, they are prevented from coming into contact with non-organic additives in the winery. Type of yeast, sulfites, and fining ingredients can all compromise the status of organic wine. Many wineries use organic grapes but add sulfites to stabilize the wine. This product cannot be labeled as organic wine, but can read “made with organic grapes.”
Is Organic Better?
Organic grape farming yields healthier soil, imparting more concentrated, pure flavors into the grapes grown upon it. Although there are no rules to back up the statement “organic wines are made in a more natural style,” I’ve come to this conclusion after realizing I prefer organic wines because of their consistent representation of terroir, not to mention for the dedication of the winemaker to responsible farming. Natural wines can taste better because they are simply that... natural. Besides, conventional grapes are at the top of the list of the worst fruits to eat with regard to pesticides.
Labeled By Omission.
There are many wineries that use organic practices, but you wouldn’t know this by reading the label. There are a few reasons for such an omission. First, to be given the privilege to use organic labeling, forms need to be filled out and the winery must pay for certification. Additionally, many wineries cannot afford to sacrifice an entire crop in a difficult vintage. While many would make all attempts to protect their clusters using organic methods, they may want the freedom to resort to inorganic methods at the last line of defense against Mother Nature.
If you read “biodynamic” on the label, this wine is organic “plus.” Besides adhering to the strict rules dictating organic practices, these vineyards are considered a complete, living system working interdependently. In other words, it’s not just the vines that matter; it’s the soil, plant and animal life that coexist in the vineyard. Often, harvests are executed according to the lunar calendar, and the goal is to holistically create a regenerative environment. Biodynamic practices have been embraced all over France, and are slowly spreading to the rest of Europe, the U.S., and the Southern Hemisphere.
6 Organic Jewels For Under $15.
1. Leth, Gruner Veltliner, Steinagrund, Austria, 2009
2. Montinore, “Borealis”, Willamette, 2009
A blend of Muller-Thurgau, Gewurztraminer, PG, Riesling. Pretty and exotic for spicy food.
3. Gassier Nostre Pais Blanc, Costieres de Nimes, 2008
A classic Southern Rhone blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier. Sturdy and pretty
at the same time.
4. Christian Venier Gamay “La Gautrie”, Touraine, 2009
Taste the potential funkiness of organic! This is geek wine.
5. Chateau La Chapelle Maillard, Bordeaux Rouge, 2008
Not only organic, but biodynamic.
6. Les Clos Maurice, La Piece d’Or, Saumur, 2008
An example of how Cabernet Franc is more than just a blending wine.