Picture yourself surrounded by a calming mountain stream or secret woodsy spot, eating alfresco on an organic picnic of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and drinking a brilliantly crisp wine. Or maybe you’re biking on a country road and glide by a local winery for a tasting.
So many people who stringently buy and eat only organically grown fruits and vegetables don’t even consider the crushed wine grapes used to create that perfect beverage, but not all grapes are created equal.
Many wines are a manufactured concoction that contain a complex set of ingredients — enzymes to speed up the removal of solid particles and amplify desirable aromas. Additives are included to enhance a wine’s texture or alter the quality of the tannins. Wines can contain added sugar to lengthen the fermentation and increase the alcohol content, or water is added if the alcohol level is too high.
Who knew the innocent grape could be transformed by processing the smell, feel and taste of wine?
I pay so much attention to the nutritional, environmental, artisanal and aesthetic values of the minimally-processed food my family eats, why has it taken so long to raise my consciousness to include organic wine?
Probably because wineries do not have to label mysterious ingredients and manufacturing practices the same way most of our regulated food is.
So, what we don’t know won’t hurt us?
I wish. But if you want your food and drink to be as unprocessed and sustainably harvested for quality and taste, here’s some important information:
6 things you need to know about the healthy side of wine and winemaking
(adapted from Organic Wine Journal)
- Organic Wines are made from grapes that are grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
- There’s little manipulation during the winemaking process. This includes reverse osmosis, excessive filtration and additives.
- Sulfites are debated within the winemaking community. Some sulfites are naturally occurring and others are added. Labels generally say whether or not there are added sulfites.
- An “organic” certification means the wine has met certain standards set by a government agency. It’s important to note that some wineries that are technically organic are not certified because of added costs. Read wine labels closely because these wines often will words such as “biodynamic” or “sustainable.
- The premise behind biodynamic wine is self-sufficiency. This may include using grazing sheep manure for rich fertilizer. Biodynamic also means farming in accordance with the phases of the moon.
- Wineries that try to minimize chemicals, energy use and just labor issues are called sustainable. Sustainable wineries aim to offset their carbon footprint by including LEED certified operating facilities, rainwater and wastewater reuse and filtration, composting and recycling, and renewable energy practices.
For those who covet organic fruits and vegetables could all this healthy winemaking goodness take organic wine to new heights? You bet. With the warmest season a hop, skip and a jump… or a bike ride away, organic wineries are getting back to wine basics. I’ll drink to that!