Our love for wine is undeniable, but our love is also complex. Wine is a great source of sophistication – no matter whether taste, flavour, grapes or pairing. It intrigues and puzzles us, as we never stop searching for the perfect wine. Organic wine is a relatively new endeavour, but fuelled with the very best grapes have to offer – natural taste. With new terms in the wine dictionary, such as organic wine, biodynamic and natural wine, come also questions. Is organic wine better? What are the benefits? Which wine to pick? Here are the answers.
The Process of Wine Making
Wine production has two main parts. The first part is the growing of the grapes in the vineyards itself, while the second part is the fermentation of the grapes into wine. As the grapes are ripe, they are picked from the vineyards, however, one should remember that a good grape can make a bad wine, but a bad grape cannot make a good wine. This part is crucial to how the process follows. After the picking and sorting of the grapes, they are being fermented. Different kinds of processes may precede this step, depending on the kind of wine. Adding cultured yeast to the fermentation process gives winemakers control over the winemaking process. After the fermentation is completed, the wine is moved to barrels for maturation.
Clean and Easy?
Simply said, organic wine is made with grapes that are organically grown. Organic growing of grapes does not use any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. The conventional method of farming has had an extremely damaging impact on the soil, crops, environment and health of the consumers, due to the use of added chemicals. Hence, the step towards making the product organic is a necessary one.
However, even if a wine is made with organically farmed grapes, it does not mean that it doesn’t have additives. It would still contain the necessary additives like yeast, animal enzymes, egg whites etc. – varying in quantity. Nonetheless, organic wine is definitely one giant leap towards a greener lifestyle and a positive impact on the environment.
The Paradox of Organic Wine
Even though a wine might be noted as organic wine, it still does consist of ‘sulphur dioxide’, also known as sulphites, which aid the preservation of wine over a longer period of time. Sulphites are organically released during the process of winemaking or can be added in a controlled manner to keep the wine stable. One should keep in mind that in different countries, the word ‘organic’ might have a slightly different meaning.
USA: Organic means a wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulphites. In United States, wines are often labelled ‘made with organic grapes’ in case they contain any added sulphites. Those will be mentioned on the bottles though.
Europe & Canada: A wine labelled organic is generally made from organically grown grapes that may contain added sulphites.
Most countries have their certifications and seals for labelling bottles as organic. For example, US have the USDA seal. Although some of the organic vineyards in the world tend to not spend their money in getting such certification. So learning more about the vineyards and their farming techniques would be a fruitful idea.
Biodynamic Farming and Wine
‘Biodynamic’ is another term that winemakers use more regularly. The biodynamic approach of grape growing incorporates the vineyard as an ecological whole: it applies not just to grapevines, but also takes the soil treatment and interdependent growing of flora and fauna into consideration. Some viticulturists even consider the moon cycles in such a farming method.
Before wine became a prey of consumerism, it was made without any technological interference or additives – for both the grape growing process and the fermentation process. A few producers around the world have started a movement to make wine in the same nostalgic way, bringing us the natural wine. Some consider natural wines to be raw and rudimentary.
Is Non-Organic Wine Bad?
Winemakers occasionally add some of the most bizarre chemicals (like sulphur, mega purple) to make the wines. It may or may not have immediate damaging effects, but in the long term – the vineyard worker can suffer severe health issues. After all the food industry is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the desire for a more sustainable production and organic wine was born. One has to acknowledge though that some of the best wines in the world are still non-organic wines. But the need to further organic production in all aspects is increasing day by day.
What Tastes Better?
Organic wine tastes just as good as any non-organic wine – and vice versa. Since it is made from organic grapes, the taste is often termed to be richer, just like any organically produced fruit or vegetable has often more taste. Due to lack of added sulphites and other preservatives, the shelf life can be shorter for organic wines.
Benefits of Organic Wine
Both organic and non-organic are almost the same when it comes to health benefits. Only around 1% of wine drinkers have a negative reaction from sulphites that are relatively higher in conventional non-organic wines. Wine in general is good for your heart. It is proven to be good for your memory and aids in keeping a minimal check on weight as well. It is as they say – a glass of wine keeps the doctor away!
There is no scientific proof that organic wine gives you less of a hangover than non-organic. However, many people have claimed that they don’t get headaches and hangovers after drinking organic wine.
Pick the Best Wine, but Organic
Picking an environment-friendly wine can be a small, but a wise choice. But what are some of the best organic wines in the world? From Cabernet Sauvignon to special ice wines, one can find almost all types of organic wines.
Louis Jadot, Beaujolais Blanc, France (White Wine)
Maison Louis Jadot is one of the most iconic of the Cabernet Sauvignon. It is made with 100% chardonnay. This organic wine is crisp, clean, naturally lush and finely balanced with bright acidity. Surprisingly, it does not market the fact that it is actually ‘organic’. You have found a gem with this wine for sure.
Domaine Carneros 2009 Brut Vintage Cuvée Carneros, California (Sparkling Wine)
It is made with 59% Pinot Noir and 41% Chardonnay. This organic wine is aged for 3 years before the bottle is released into the market. This sparkling wine features beautiful notes of apple, lime, honey and vanilla!
Madroña 2011 Signature Collection Dry Riesling El Dorado, California (White Wine)
This wine features honey and apple aromas, uncovering crisp citrus and mineral notes in the mouth.
Sokol Blosser 2012 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Oregon (White Wine)
Sokol Blosser’s vineyard estate was the first ever certified organic vineyard in 2002. The 2012 Pinot Gris features apple, citrus and fig flavours with mineral and spice notes.
Gérard Bertrand 2010 Cigalus Languedoc-Roussillon, France (Red Wine)
A 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot fuelled with ripe black fruit flavours and full tannins. This wine stands out for sure.
Old River Vintners 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, California (Red Wine)
Emphasised by the typical green vegetable attributes that come with the cabernet franc grape, it constitutes 24% of the wine. Without any added sulphites, it is an easy organic wine for beginners.
Rolling Dale 2013 Chardonnay Ice Wine
Coming from Canada, this organic ice wine exhumes buttery richness and is quite thick on the palate. This sweet wine gives the perfect closure for a great meal.
André Bourguet Cartagene Dessert Wine
This sweet wine from the South of France is made with 50% Syrah and 50% Mourvèdre grapes. It has a deep tawny colour and alluring aromas of prune and chocolate with a warm taste of red berries.
It is time to pick a greener wine – tell us which one is your favourite!