Wine can be “made with organically-grown grapes” without being a “certified organic wine.” The difference being added sulfites. USDA certified organic wines: are made from organically grown grapes without synthetic pesticides on both the fruit and the soil, are fermented using organic yeast, are harvested using sustainable practices to preserve resources, PLUS have no added sulfites. Sulfur dioxide, or sulfite, is a natural byproduct of fermented grapes. The idea behind adding more sulfite to wine is for its preservative effect; therefore, certified organic wines from the United States may have a reduced shelf life in comparison. Some wine drinkers might also note negative physical reactions to sulfites, making an organic wine a better choice for those affected. There are more benefits of organic wines than just the absence of the sulfites–notably the environmental impact.
Grapes grown without the aid of pesticides or chemicals not only benefit the environment, but also benefit the consumer, who experiences more vibrant fruit flavors in the wines. In order for this method to be successful, the farmer must maintain the soil through regular plowing and applications of organic composts–which are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. Organic farms are also encouraged to utilize biodynamic practices to create a self-contained ecosystem. Biodynamic practices ensure that farms use only their own resources to cover crops–even the waste! Biodynamic harvesting, constant maintenance, and nutrient-dense soils ensure healthy vines for more bountiful harvests, year after year.
Fun Fact: If adverse reactions to wine are common for you: try switching from red to white wine. Research shows a stronger link between side-effects and histamine, rather than reactions linked to sulfites. Histamine is the primary chemical produced during an allergic reaction, and white wines are significantly lower in histamines than red wines.
Andrew Adorno is a Dietetic Technician, Registered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics