Organic wine and organic grapes
In the US, organic wine is wine made from organically grown grapes and without the addition of sulfites. In Europe, organic wine is wine made from organic grapes and may contain sulfites; sulfites may be added when bottling.
Organic farming is an increasingly popular approach to farming, which prohibits the use of chemicals and additives in the fields. Simple truth? Unfortunately, when we talk about wine, everything is more complicated.
If it's pretty clear what organic farming means, what is considered organic wine varies depending on the country of origin of the wine. In fact, there are two definitions of organic wine, one in the United States, another in Europe, within the European Union, that is.
To understand why this is so, we have to look at the two essential phases of winemaking, the cultivation of the grapes in the vineyards and the transformation of the grapes into wine in the winery.
Vineyards v. Store
To make a great wine, first of all, excellent quality grapes are needed, and the vineyard is where everything happens. Farmers who grow grapes organically must comply with a series of prescriptions that regulate which substances can be used in the vineyard; this is true in both Europe and the US.
But the main difference is that in the United States, for a wine to be called organic, in addition to being made from organically grown grapes, winemakers must not add any sulfites when bottling it. In the European Union, there are less stringent regulations on how organically grown grapes must be vinified, which is then made into wine.
The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, the agency that presides over organic certifications in the US, is also concerned with particular aspects of winemaking that occurs in the winery.
US definition of organic wine
This passage from the USDA website is key:
"Before wine can be sold as organic, both the crop of the grape and its conversion into wine must be certified. This includes making sure the grapes are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a way that protects the environment and conserves the soil."
Other agricultural ingredients that go into the wine, such as yeast, must also be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredient must be specifically allowed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and cannot exceed 5% of the total product.
And, although wine naturally produces some sulfur dioxide (sulfites), they cannot be added to the came organic ".
Only wine made in accordance with the principles established by the USDA, including the strict requirement of "no added sulfur dioxide," can be sold as organic wine. If a wine only meets the "made with organic grapes" requirement, it cannot be sold as organic wine.
Definition of organic wine in the European Union
In the European Union, organic wine must be made from organic grapes and in accordance with the following winemaking practices, from the European Commission website:
► Maximum sulfite content set at 100 mg per liter for red wine (150 mg/l for conventional).
► maximum sulfite content set at 150 mg/l for white/rosé (200 mg/l for conventional).
there may be a differential of 30mg/l when the residual sugar content is greater than 2g per litre.
Within the European Union, for a wine to be labeled and sold as organic, the amount of sulfur dioxide must be less than that found in conventional wines, but adding it is not prohibited.
Organic in conversion and organic practice
Certified organic wine is widely available in the United States, along with a host of organic food products. To complete the picture, we'd like to mention two often-overlooked subcategories that are a bit more difficult to identify.
1 In organic conversion: wine producers who are in the process of obtaining organic certification.
2 Practicing organic farming: wine producers who are not certified organic but who nevertheless practice organic farming.
Certified organic wine is widely available in the United States, along with a host of organic food products. Just look for the logos below and you're guaranteed to buy organic wine!