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What Is Organic Wine?

By July 29, 2021November 21st, 2021Wine Worlds

If you’ve done any research on organic wines, you know that the emphasis is almost always on what organic wine does without — pesticides and other chemicals. But have you ever wondered what takes the place of these chemicals to keep the pests off of the grapes used to make your wine? The answer is animals and insects. By introducing beneficial insects to the crop, growers can control their number of harmful bugs. Chickens and sheep may also be left to roam a vineyard to help fight not only the bad insects but also the weeds.

Organic vineyards also have natural alternatives for creating healthy soils. To replace synthetic fertilizers, they rely on compost and cover crops, which add nutrients to the soil over time. The cover crops are planted in between the rows of vines. They attract insects that are good for the soil and plants and provide additional support against erosion. Combined, compost and cover crops provide a nutrient-rich soil that’s perfect for growing grapes.

 

One of the main factors to consider regarding organic wines is that they are not permitted to have any sulfites added. Sulfites are extremely common in winemaking. The term refers to sulfur oxide, a preservative with antioxidant and antibacterial properties that is often added to prevent oxidization. The bottom line is that sulfites play a key role in the aging of wine. Without it, you have an organic wine with a short shelf life.

The next logical question is “what if I like the organic, but don’t want to lose the flavor that comes with aging?” There are wines “made with organic grapes” that could be the perfect solution for you. While these wines don’t carry the USDA organic certification, to be able to make this claim on the label, the winemaking process must be the same. The only difference is the addition of sulfites, which gives you the aging flavor and shelf life that many wine enthusiasts love.

To fully understand organic wine, you need to know the creation process:

  • Growing and harvesting: Grapes are grown in a vineyard that is free of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides — and has been for three years before the harvest of the organic grapes. The grapes are not grown or handled using any genetically modified organisms (GMO). Organic wines are certified by the USDA and face the same strict regulations as any food products that carry the USDA organic certification. Since it is an alcoholic beverage, it’s also subject to regulations by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
  • Adding ingredients and fermenting: All yeast and other agricultural ingredients added to the wine are organically grown as well. Non-agricultural ingredients are not permitted to make up more than 5{5f2e3c2813bd2b9bd7a424f57432496198dd616c85a9775e3481bd437745f884} of the product and must be included on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. No sulfites can be used.

 

  • Storing and transporting: Wine and all ingredients and equipment used in the winemaking process are stored in an area that has been certified by the USDA to ensure there is no exposure to any non-organic products that could jeopardize the certification.

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