What Makes Organic Wine Organic
The world of organic wine -- or is it natural wines, biodynamic wines or wines that have labels stating “made with organic grapes” -- is confusing partly because there are several certifications from the state concerning organically-grown grapes. They may have one of the designations listed above but not comply with the restrictions needed to be labeled “organic”.
As with other organic products, organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering. True organic wine may not have any sulfur dioxide (sulfite) added, while making these other wines from organically grown grapes may have less stringent requirements. The standards in other countries -- Europe, Australia, and Central America -- are all unique to their country.
Before wine can be sold as organic, both the growing of the grapes and their conversion to wine must be certified. We start with organically-grown grapes which were grown with certified organic compost instead of synthetic fertilizers and in a manner that protects the environment and preserves the soil. Other agricultural ingredients that go into the wine, such as yeast, also have to be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be specifically included on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
The process of turning the grapes into wine has to be approved before starting the wine. All ingredients and every step of the process has to be thoroughly documented. To ensure it is, an audit is performed each year.
Organic wine is produced all over the world, but each country has their own requirements for its production. For example, where no sulfur product is allowed added to the wine in the US, European countries permit up to 4% non-organic ingredients. No matter where the wine comes from if it is sold in the United States as organic wine it has to meet the US standards.
Not many wineries in Washington State make organic wine, especially where both the grapes and wine-making process are certified organic. You will find wineries that state on their label that it was made from organic grapes, or they will add an ingredients chart on the label and make organically-grown grapes the main ingredient. The truly organic wine can bear the USDA and State of Washington emblems.
To learn more about organic wine check out www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/01/08/organic-101-organic-wine.
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