Understanding the main features of an organic wine helps us make thorough decisions when buying and drinking wines. Here is everything you need to know.
Organic wine is a completely natural and genuine wine made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which excludes the use of artificial chemical, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Simply put, organic wine is made from grapes that were farmed and vinified organically. Vineyards are cultivated in their habitat, with spontaneous herbs growing around, with a developed biodiversity. The plant can produce balanced fruits that express all the typical characteristics of the growing area. In the cellar, to vinify this type of wine, only oenological inputs of natural origins are authorized. Chemicals like "Mega-Purple", commonly used in conventional wines to deepen the colour of red wines, are not permitted when making organic wines.
Organic wine is a healthy, natural and genuine product that respects not only the environment and the ecosystem but also safeguards the health of those who consume it, the producer himself and those around them, being devoid of any chemical component.
Wine production comprises two main phases - which takes place in the vineyard (i.e. grape growing) and which takes place in the winery (i.e. fermentation of the grapes into wine, bottling etc.). The baseline definition of organic wine as "wine made with grapes farmed organically", deals only with the first phase (grape growing). There are numerous potential inputs which can be made during the second phase of production in order to ferment and preserve the wine. The most universal wine preservative is sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Wine matures over time, and it is widely considered that certain types of wines improve with aging, as the flavours become more integrated and balanced. As a result, the greatest percentage of wines are produced in a way that allows them to last, sometimes as long as decades. Wine is fermented using yeast, which produces sulphites, so almost all wine contains sulphites. Winemakers have been adding sulphur dioxide to wine since the 1800s. It helps protecting against oxidation, which can affect the colour and taste of wine. It also prevents the growth of unwanted microorganisms and promotes the growth of yeast for better fermentation, among others.
An organic wine is not necessarily a wine without added sulphites. It can be, but the organic farming label authorizes the winegrower to sell organic red wines with 100 mg/l of total SO2, and rosé and white wines with 150 mg/l of total SO2. To make sure that an organic wine does not contain added sulphites, the words “no added sulphites” are written on the label. “No sulphites added” is a term sometimes used to mean no additional sulphur has been added during the winemaking process. The wine cannot be correctly described as “sulphite free” because there are tiny amounts of bound sulphites in there from the fermentation process.
French, American, Italian, organic, non-organic, whatever your choice is – all will indeed contain naturally produced levels of sulphites. It is something that cannot be avoided. However, you can avoid added sulphites.
As mentioned, synthetic sulphites affect wine by acting as a preservative and inhibiting bacterial contamination. Many winemakers use sulphur dioxide to kill off unwanted yeast and bacteria so you do not get an oxidized wine, which could ultimately ruin a wine's taste, texture, colour, and appearance. However, there are many organic wine brands that make wines without any added sulphites, no sugar, zero chemical additives, and minimal intervention.
If you see a wine promoted as "sulphite-free," be aware that it only means there are no added sulphites. The closest you are going to get to wine without sulphites (natural or otherwise) is an organic wine that does not have the "contains sulphites" label.
Natural wine, organic wine, and biodynamic wines are made using the least amount of intervention and chemicals as possible. Research suggests that these types of wine can offer greater health benefits and fewer side effects than those that are commercially produced.
One of the biggest misconceptions about wines made with organic grapes is that they do not taste as good as conventional wines. Try a refreshing organic Prosecco wine and then, tell us.