The growing concern about the environment and climate impacts among wine drinkers often prompts the question “what is organic wine?”. Biodynamic, natural and organic methods are increasingly used in Oregon as ways to improve soil quality and sustainability. Organic wines are classified as organic when produced from sustainably farmed grapes that come from an organic vineyard. Below we break down a few basic elements of these types of viticulture.
Organic Vs. Biodynamic Wine – What’s the difference?
Organic winemaking has been in use for decades, and biodynamic winemaking dates back nearly a century. Organic and biodynamic wines have often been compared because both use growing practices that disallow pesticides and rely heavily on the use of compost. Biodynamic wines, however, may contain added antioxidants and antibacterial agents, where certified organic wines will not contain added sulfites. Both generally contain natural-occurring sulfites.
How Can I Tell If Wine Is Organic Vs. Organically Grown?
If you’re unsure whether your wine is organic, take a look at the outside of the bottle. Here you’ll find two indicators. The bottle may mention the grapes are sustainably farmed and will have a seal of the certifying agency. Wines can be grown organically, or naturally, and not display a certificate on the bottle. Some wine producers may choose to forgo the lengthy and expensive certification process. It presents an opportunity, though, for the consumer to inquire about growing practices and learn more.
Are Organic Wines Better for the Environment?
One of the most underrated reasons to drink organic wine is for its environmentally conscious effects. As mentioned above, organic wine comes from sustainably farmed grapes that are grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The production of organic wine is accomplished without genetically modified yeast and animal products in its process. In contrast, non-organic grape growing uses pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which leads to soil pollution.
“I believe that the responsibility of the winemaker is to take that fruit and get it into the bottle as the most natural and purest expression of that vineyard, of the grape varietal or blend, and of the vintage.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr.
What are some benefits of organic wine?
Organic Wine Is Grown Without Synthetic Additives
Organic wine is free of synthetic additives that are often used to bolster flavor and aroma. During the growing season, grapes are managed without chemical fertilizer or pesticides. Instead, producers might utilize natural fertilizers like manure from livestock and other natural products that enrich the soil. The process involves the use of holistic techniques to improve soil quality and enhance fruit formation. Soil health also plays a significant role in cultivation as it helps balance the plant nutrients needed for steady growth.
Organic Wine Is GMO-Free
Genetically modified organisms, or more specifically, genetically modified yeasts, are common in conventional wines. The wine may lend smoother taste and is a more natural wine experience. GMOs are also not allowed in biodynamic winemaking.
There Are No Added Sulfites And Only Native Yeasts
Sulfites are preservatives used in wine production and can lead to health problems, like allergic reactions or asthma. Conversely, the absence of pesticides protects the grapes and the environment from degradation. Organic wine also contains native yeast that aids fermentation.
Organic Wine Must Pass A Certification Program Every Year
To be certified as organic, the vineyards and winery operations will undergo annual inspection to receive the USDA Certified Organic designation. The inspections ensure the organic wine producers follow the USDA’s regulations, essential for their certification.
Organic Wine Uses Sustainable Organic Farming and Production Methods
Organic wine is produced with sustainable methods that help improve the soil environment and grape quality. By using natural manure as fertilizer for sustainably farmed grapes, soil richness is improved. This, in turn, benefits the grapes and improves their overall quality to produce flavorful wine. Avoiding pesticides and synthetic fertilizers also helps reduce water pollution and keeps chemicals from entering life systems.
A growing number of Oregon wineries specialize in biodynamic, organic and natural winemaking. Check out the list below to learn where protection of the environment yields top quality wines.