You've seen the labels and heard the buzz words, but what does organic even mean when it comes to wine? Is organic wine better? And what's the difference between organic, biodynamic, vegan, or sustainable wines?
Organic is something we're all familiar with in terms of food but it's become so common the "organic" label isn't as impactful as it once was and many have begun to gloss over what that organic label truly means, especially when it comes to your wine.
The world of environmentally-friendly wine is complex and full of myths and misinformation. So to provide some clarity this #WmSipGuide is here to help you learn the basics of what it means to sip sustainably!
What is Organic Wine?
To put it simply, organic wines are those which have been produced with no chemical or unnatural intervention. Typically, organic requirements focus on the farming, ingredients, and ultimately what is going INTO the bottle. This means every part of the production must be done without using artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, additives, and herbicides.
Where things get complicated is that the standards and regulations for what constitutes as “organic” can be different from country to country. The most notable difference (aka the one most people care about) is around the hot topic of sulphites. We won't bore you with our sulphite lecture (a topic for another #WmSipGuide), but to keep it short: sulphites aren’t all bad (and naturally develop in ALL wines) but the amount of sulphites allowed is a major difference when it comes to the organic label.
How do you know if wine is organic?
Any wine that is certified organic typically displays the seal/logo on the back of the label. But the logos can look different depending on where the wine is from. Here are some common organic certification logos and a brief overview of what they mean:
EU Organic: wines are made with organically grown grapes, all additives (fining agents, yeast, etc.) must also be organic, and with no GMO’s. Sulphite additions are allowed but limited to 100 ppm in red wines and 150 ppm in white/rosé wines.
USDA Organic: wines are made with organically grown grapes, all additives (fining agents, yeast, etc.) must also be organic, and with no GMO’s. Sulphite additions are NOT allowed.
Australian Certified Organic: wines are made with organically grown grapes, all additives (fining agents, yeast, etc.) must also be organic, and with no GMO’s. Sulphite additions are allowed but limited.
Agriculture Biologique: French wines made with organically grown grapes, all additives (fining agents, yeast, etc.) must also be organic, and with no GMO’s. Like the EU certification, sulphite additions are allowed but limited. This label can also apply to organic food or other organic products.
Keep in mind, there are many more small regional organic certifications and each of these logos can differ slightly in design and colour.
Is Organic Wine Healthier For You?
That's the million-dollar question. From a purely objective point of view, yes, in theory, it is better because organic wine is more natural and has little to no chemicals or manipulation. Additionally, organic wines on average have less sugar and don't have chemical additives like flavourings or colouring. These additives and high sugar levels are typically responsible for that wicked hangover headache (so stop blaming the sulphites). For more on hangovers and what causes them visit our Hangover Myths and Tips blog post!
But while we know natural products are better for you, that certainly doesn't mean all non-organic wine is bad for you. And keep in mind that organic certifications are typically very expensive and time-consuming to get, so a vineyard might operate organically but cannot afford or just haven't gotten around to the official certification. In short: get to know your winemakers.
Fun fact: if you're interested in vegan wines chances are it is not also organic. Typically vegan wine is made with a synthetic filtering agent, instead of filtering agents made from animal proteins, and therefore not organic. This doesn't mean vegan wine is full of chemicals but we advise you to not just look at organic wine or non-organic wine as either all good or all bad.
What is Sustainable Wine?
Now that we’ve established the basics of organic wine let’s take it a step further and discuss biodynamic and sustainable wines. Organic wine is largely about what goes INTO the bottle whereas sustainable, biodynamic, natural, etc., go a step further by also regulating all aspects of resource management in the vineyard. This would apply to things like water and energy efficiency, community mindfulness, paying workers fairly, etc.
So why should you care about sustainability in a vineyard thousands of miles away? Climate change. Which as we all know is a very real threat to our world as a whole and the wine industry is no exception.
But like organic certifications, defining sustainability is complicated because each region has its own unique environmental stresses. There are hundreds of sustainable certifications but here is a quick guide to some of the common logos and the region they apply to:
But the best way to learn about organic wine? Drink it! Shop our range of organic, vegan, and sustainable wines or order our Organic Wine Box that features 3 incredible organic wines from different regions.