Quiz: Know Your Vintage

Many people purposely seek out organic produce and meats, but few know what to look for when it comes to organic wines. Test your organic wine savvy with this short quiz.

True or False? “Organic” wines are different from “wines made with organic grapes.”

True or False? The added sulfite levels in red and white wines made from organically grown grapes are the same.

True or False? Organic wines have better health and environmental benefits than conventional wines.

True or False? All organic wines are vegetarian or vegan.

1. True. According to the USDA’s National Organic Program, in order to claim a wine is “organic” or “100 percent organic” the wine must not contain added sulfites, an additive commonly used to preserve and perfect the taste of wine. In addition, these wines are able to display the USDA organic seal or certifying agent seal. However, “wines made with organic grapes” may contain added sulfites and are not allowed to don the USDA organic seal. This difference is especially important for people who are allergic to sulfites.

2. False. White wines average 70 parts per million (ppm) of added sulfites, but red wines contain only about 40 ppm.

3. True. Organic grapes are grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides. In addition, the only chemical additives in some wines made from organic grapes are sulfites. Some individuals claim that wine headaches disappear because of the reduced amount of added sulfites. Conventional wines usually contain additional chemical additives to protect against oxidation and bacterial spoilage.

4. False. Neither organic nor conventional winemakers are required to declare the use of animal by-products, such as egg whites, gelatin, or casein (a milk protein), in their wine. To be sure a wine is vegetarian or vegan (no animal products) look on the bottle for a V symbol for vegetarian-friendly or a VG symbol for vegan-friendly.

—Christine Wohlford