I don’t know anything about you, but if you’re anything like me, you love good wine. There’s nothing like a nice glass of wine after a hard day at work! Or a bottle shared with good friends, accompanied by some good food. Now that’s a pleasure!
You might also have heard that wine is good for you, when consumed in moderation and as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn’t it – a drink both tasty and healthy that you can enjoy with good conscience?
Well, that is all very good and true, but there is one catch: wines made out of conventionally grown grapes are loaded with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers, and frankly just are not likely to be good for you.
In addition, during the winemaking process additional chemicals, synthetic yeasts, acids, preservatives and coloring etc are added to the wine.
Think how all these synthetic substances, some of them designed to kill living organisms (pests) might affect your body. I don’t know about you, but that sounds neither healthy nor tasty to me.
There is a choice, however: organic wine.
If you are looking for a wide selection of organic, quality wines to try out, one of the best resources outh there is the Organic Wine Company website.
Organic wine is defined in different ways in different countries. There’s also a difference between the general term ‘organic wine’ and the specific legal term ‘organic wine’ used for labeling purposes.
All definitions of organic wine agree on one thing: it is wine made from grapes grown ‘organically’ i.e. without the use of synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides.
In the USA and in accordance to NOP (National Organic Program), an organic wine is defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes without any added sulphites". Very often in everyday language wines made out of organically grown grapes (but with some added sulphites) are also called organic wines.
What is common for both these types of wine is that they are both made from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, and other synthetic chemicals; all substances that could end up in the conventionally-grown wine as residues.
For readability’s sake, both kinds of wines will be referred to as organic wines on this website.
Before we go into why organic wine is the best choice, I want to tell you a bit about the health benefits of wine in general.
Wine is one of the oldest beverages known to man. Written records dating back 4,000 years refer to the dietary and therapeutic uses of wine. It has been used as a food, a medicine, as part of various religious ceremonies and as an important element in social life. Therefore, it is no surprise that many healthful effects of wine have become legendary.
In moderation, wine appears to be more than just a beverage containing alcohol. Research studies indicate that drinking wine moderately (two to three glasses of wine per day) can help lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and help us live longer.
An example: you may have heard of the "French Paradox."
The French eat 30% more fat than Americans but suffer 40% fewer heart attacks. Many believe that the consumption of wine is the reason, countermanding the fattier diet. According to the Wine Institute, the French drink over nine times more wine than Americans. In fact, France has the world's second highest per capita intake of wine, but the second lowest rate of heart disease in the world.
Wine doesn’t just prevent heart disease, either. A new study from Harvard University researchers, using more than 81,000 women participants, found that an increase in fluid intake significantly reduces risk for kidney stones and that risk reduction was greatest for wine compared with other beverages. Out of 17 beverages, including fruit juices, milk and water, wine was associated with the highest reduction in risk - 59%. In addition, scientists have pointed out that antioxidants were likely to be responsible for wine's beneficial effects.
In fact, some 400 substances in wine apparently raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL - the "good" cholesterol) in the blood, while decreasing the low-density lipoproteins (LDL - the "bad" cholesterol) thus helping prevent heart attack and stroke.
Let’s face it: more than 100 scientific reports have been published since 1991 providing strong evidence for the wine and health phenomenon. Today, the scientific evidence is even stronger that drinking wine is beneficial to our health.
Choosing organic wine will give you all these benefits without the disadvantage of having to consume chemicals, pesticides and chemical fertilizer residues in your wine. Recommended Wines
If you are looking for a good selection on organic, quality wines from all around the world, visit the Organic Wine Company website.
The US Environmental Protection Agency considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides to be potentially carcinogenic. Pesticides are poisons made to kill living organisms. Residue from these chemicals will inevitably end up in the wine you drink.
An NGO investigation of 40 wines (including wines made by famous vineyards) found that all of them contained pesticides, with one bottle containing as many as 10 different types. On average the wine samples contained over four pesticides.
The analysis revealed 24 different contaminants, including five classified as being carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic– in plain English causing cancer, mutations and problems in reproduction.
A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a six times greater risk than non-farmers of contracting cancer. You may have even seen wine farmers spraying their grapes wearing hazard suits and oxygen masks.
Now take a moment to thing think about why that’s necessary.
An estimated one million people are poisoned annually by pesticides. The more that consumers demand organic wine the more organic grapes will be grown, and the less pesticides will be used.
A large portion of our agricultural produce today comes from large, industrial farms. Even though vineyards are usually not directly in the hands of multinationals only interested in profit, most do sell their crops to large wine companies, then to be industrially processed into standardized, brand name wines.
They might be cheap and have nice advertising, but they tend to be somewhat impersonal. Not so with most organic wines!
You can often find out not only the name of the winemaker, but also some information on his/her history in winemaking, where the wine was made, and other information that is bound to make you feel closer to the people who made you this wine.
Soil depletion and erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, ecological impact, resistance to pests, chemical dependence… just a few problems plaguing the conventional way to produce grapes as well as other agricultural products.
According to US EPA estimates, pesticides are contaminating the groundwater in thirty-eight states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the population in the USA. Repeated use of chemical fertilizer destroys the natural balance of living organisms in the soil, so that its natural nutrients become depleted. This basically deadens the soil, causes erosion, and perpetuates a cycle of requiring more and more synthetic inputs.
According to some people, in the past years organic wine sometimes had a reputation for being a bit instable in taste, especially during aging. Today, however, thanks to advances in quality and winemaking technique, organic wines and wines made with organically grown grapes are good, or oftentimes the best that the vineyards have to offer.
Actually, some of the world’s best wines are either organic or currently converting to organic, as the have recognised that organic farming produces the most flavorful grapes and protects the ‘terroir’ in the long run.
Organic wines made completely without sulphites are a matter of personal taste. Some people adore being able to taste the unembellished natural flavors of the wine - some find it too unsophisticated and unpredictable for their taste.
There are many winemakers that have mastered the art of making wine without sulphur, though.
In this one regard organic wine is just like conventional wine: there are some that taste great and some that are not so good. My suggestion to you is to try some organic and organically grown wines out and find your favourites yourself.
One of the best sources for organic wines I know is the Organic Wine Company.
After all this talk about sulphites, you might ask yourself what they actually are and why are they not allowed in strictly organic wine. Let me answer that:
Sulphur dioxide, often called sulphites, is used during wine making to.
In other words sulfur dioxide is used as a kind of disinfectant and preservative. It is widely considered essential to creating wines that can age over long periods although this is disputed by some natural wine makers. It is also considered to help integrate a wine’s flavors.
The main problem with sulphites is that some people have an allergic reaction and it can contribute to headaches – associated with ‘the morning after’. However, according to the FDA, only about 0.4% of the US population is considered highly allergic to sulphites.
According to Dr. Vincent Marinkovich, an allergist and clinical immunologist who has performed extensive research on sulphites, say they pose no danger to about 99.75% of the population; the highest risk group are asthmatics (about 5% of the population) and only about 5% of this group is allergic to sulphites.
Many people, however, have simply a low tolerance for sulphites. They are considered sulphite-sensitive.
Even for moderate wine drinkers, the average level of sulphites found in many commercial wines can cause heartburns or other side effects. Unpleasant reactions include burning sensations, hives, cramps, and flushing of the skin. For them, organically grown wines are an especially good choice since they contain minimal amounts of sulphites that will in most cases lie below their threshold level.
In the U.S., wines can contain up to 350ppm of sulphites. Organic winemaking standards, as adopted recently (12/00) by the USDA, limit the use of sulphites to 100ppm in all finished products. However, most organically grown wines contain less than 40ppm of sulphites – much less than many fruit concentrates, jams, baked goods, or many prescription drugs.
These are terms you might sometimes hear when the discussion turns to organic wines. The truth is, organic wine needn’t be either biodynamic or vegan – but they can be.
However, all biodynamic wine has to be organic, too.
Biodynamic vineyards have the same goal as “normal” organic vineyards — to produce grapes from which to make wine profitably without using synthetic additives.
The only difference between organic and biodynamic vineyards is that on biodynamic ones the work in the vineyard is timed to coincide with the earth’s natural rhythms so that the vine is receptive to what the winegrower is asking it to do.
Vegan wines on the other hand don’t have to have anything to do with organic, but as most organic winemakers more interested in ther customers than many big brands, they tend to cater for the growing vegan community better than their conventional counterparts.
The fact is, most conventional and organic wine makers use 'animal products’ during production to clear or ‘fine’ the wine, to keep it from turning cloudy or to remove off tastes. Fining agents of animal origin commonly used are egg whites, egg albumin, casein (milk protein), gelatin (derived from animal bones) and isinglass (derived from fish).
By strict vegan standards (no animal products, regardless if they were killed in the process or not) typical wines do use those and therefore do not qualify as vegan.
There are winemakers, though, who instead of using the standard gelatine etc. listed above, actually use bentonite clay, diatomaceous earth, carbon and kaolin – all of which are not derived from animals and are therefore vegan.
In order to label a wine ‘organic’ or ‘made with organic grapes’ it must be certified by a qualified third party organization (e.g. ecocert) to confirm that it is indeed organic. This certification process takes 3-5 years to ensure that all residual chemicals are out of the vines and soil.
After certification has been achieved, the third party organisation will continue to control and monitor the organic product to make sure it stays organic.
Rest assured: “organic” is not a term a company can just slab on their wine bottles as a marketing trick, like “natural” or “sustainable”. They won’t get away with it! If it says organic on the label, it will be organic – certified and controlled.
If you’re like me, your neighbourhood grocery store or off licence won’t have a big selection of wines, not to mention organic wines! That’s why ordering online is such a great way to get to try new tasty, healthy wines.
I personally recommend The Organic Wine Company. Based in San Francisco, they carry a good selection of organic wines, including but not limited to vegan, biodynamic and fair trade wines. They have wines from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, California, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile.
Their selection includes red, white, sparkling and even port wines!
I like this company a lot, which I’m sure you can tell! But I am sure if you visit their website and research their philosophy, you’ll be impressed too. At the very least, you will have learned more about organic wines and why they are superior to conventional wines.
I hope you found my site informative and enjoyed your stay!
PS. If you are anything like me, you love a nice glass of wine after the hard day at work! My number one tip to you are organic wines from the Organic Wine Company. Just give them a try! Their products are completely risk-free: if you have anything negative to say about their wines, they offer you a full refund with no questions asked.