If you buy organic milk and produce, doesn’t it make sense to buy organic wine? Not for oenophiles who’ve turned sour grapes after tasting a glass that had oxidized or spoiled—usually due to a lack of added sulfite preservatives, which are prohibited by USDA organic regulations. “Fifteen years after the first organic wines came out, we are still trying to get that bad taste out of people’s mouths,” says Paolo Bonetti, president of Boulder, Colorado–based distributor Organic Vintners. Bonetti and others advocate a shift in USDA organic regulations allowing wines made from 100 percent organic grapes to be marketed as organic. Here’s what to know before buying.
Made with organically grown grapes and contains no added sulfites (a small amount appears in wine naturally). Qualifies for the USDA Organic seal.
Made with organic grapes
Made with organically grown grapes but can have added sulfites. Labels may state “made with organic grapes” but can’t display the USDA Organic seal. Tends to be more shelf stable.
The box is back.
Don’t discard the idea of lightweight, aseptic Tetra Pak cartons, which can reduce the environmental impact of your vino. Try: CalNaturale “made with organic grapes” chardonnay
Cork or screw cap?
Gaining momentum in U.S. wine country, the screw cap prevents spoiled or “corked” bottles, the result of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA)—often derived from pesticides and wood preservatives—in corks. Plus, screw caps help manage sustainability issues linked with the high demand for corks, mostly grown in Spain and Portugal. Traditionalists tend to prefer cork because of its association with fine, authentic vintages. The Central Coast Vineyard Team in Paso Robles, California, recently launched Recork; visit recork.org to find a recycling partner near you.
4: Average number of pesticides found in conventional European wine samples
48 million: Sales in dollars of certified organic and “made with organic grapes” wine in 2003
161 million: Sales in dollars of certified organic and “made with organic grapes” wine in 2009