Did you know that the main ingredient in wine is on the the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Purple GrapesDozen list? Yep, grapes come in at number 8 in 2017 due to the high level of pesticides used in conventional grape farming. The EWG advocates buying organically grown grapes as the healthier choice. With many vineyards turning to organic practices, there are now more choices than ever for you to go green with wine. But should you buy organic wine? What are the benefits? Where can you find organic wine choices?  What does organic mean when it comes to wine? And what does organic farming do to the taste? Find the answers below as we plunge forward into the world of eco-friendly grapes.

To find out more about the benefits of organic wine, I spoke with Wellness and Eco-Friendly Living Coach, Kelly Bonanno, to learn why she buys it:

Kelly BonannoSharing a nice bottle of vino with good friends is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m pretty easy to please when it come to wines, but I do choose organic wine whenever possible because it’s made with organically grown grapes that have not been doused with harmful pesticides and herbicides the way that conventionally grown grapes have, which is healthier for us and kinder to the environment. A nice bonus is that organic wines have roughly 32% higher levels of resveratrol.
I like that they often don’t contain headache inducing sulphites which can cause respiratory problems and even severe allergic reactions. However, just because a wine is organic doesn’t make that a guarantee so look for “Sulfite-Free” or “NSA” (no sulphites added) on labels if you want to avoid them. 

Resveratrol -is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease. Reservatol is found in the skin of red grapes, and can also be found in peanuts and red berries. (Reservatrol Supplements (2017) www.WebMD.com)

Finding Organic Wines

The word “organic” on a wine label was once an eyesore to wine consumers. It conjured up thoughts of inconsistent and even bad tasting wines. But much has changed in the last few years. Consumers have become more eco-conscious and winemakers have responded by producing more stable and tastier wines that are made from organic farming practices. Today, finding organic wines in neighborhood beverage and grocery stores is easy. There are now whole sections devoted to organically produced wines. But you can still get a clunker as far as taste (just as you can from non-organic wines). So to help you out, here is a list from Gayot of the top 10 organic wines from around the world. Note, this list is from 2014 so there are likely some other great choices out there now. Don’t hesitate to ask your local wine merchant for some new recommendations.

1. Domaine Carneros 2009 Brut Vintage CuvéeVineyard

2. Madroña 2011 Signature Collection Dry Riesling

3. Santa Julia 2012 Chardonnay Orgánica

4. Sokol Blosser 2012 Pinot Gris

5. BioKult 2010 Rosé

6. Famille Perrin 2011 Nature Côtes du Rhône

7. Gérard Bertrand 2010 Cigalus

8. Benziger 2011 Joaquin’s Inferno

9. Auriga Wine Cellars 2010 Sangiovese

10. Királyudvar 2007 Tokaji Cuvée Ilona

But How Do These Wines Taste?

I mentioned above that designating wine as organic was a signal to consumers that the wine was of lesser quality and worse taste in the past. Not so anymore says a study by the University of California. The researchers studied over 74,000 California wine ratings from three notable wine magazines: Wine  Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate. What they found was that organic wines typically scored over 4 points higher than non-organic counterparts. This was certainly a good outcome for organic wine as the conclusion drawn is that overall, the taste of organic wine is as good if not better than many non-organic wines out there. (Do Eco Friendly Wines Taste Better? (August 2016) www.universtiyofcalifornia.edu.)

Wine PouringSo now we know the organic wines scored better, but why? Just what makes organic wines taste better? Well, it’s not something that can be completely qualified, but researchers believe it has to do with the actual farming practices. To make organic wine, farmers must leave out the harmful pesticides and instead rely more heavily on hands-on farming. When harmful pesticides are not used, microbes in the soil are allowed to flourish. This is believed to increase the natural flavors of the grapes. Better soil, better tasting grapes. 

Certified Organic Wine vs Eco-Certified Wine

There is much controversy over organic wine vs wines made from organic grapes. Let me explain what’s going on here. A natural by-product of fermenting wine is sulfites so all wines contain some level of sulfites. To be certified organic in the US, a winemaker must use organic farming practices and must not add additional sulfites to the wine. Typically, additional sulfites are added to wine for preservation purposes. Since 99% of commercial wines are produced with a small amount of added sulfites, what we typically refer to as organic wine here in the US is not by legal definition. It is wine produced from organic grape farming, or eco-certified wine. While it is easy these days to find wines that are eco-certified, it is still a bit more difficult to find wines that are certified organic. But choosing eco-certified wine means you are choosing a wine that was produced in a healthier manner and is better for the environment. And, it may even taste better than the non-organic wines. Now that is something we can all drink to.

Are you feeling ready now to give this organic thing a try? Check out my review of Plonk Wine Club Plonk Logospecializing in hand-selected, artisanal organic wines from around the world. This just might be the best way to start going green with your wine.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.