Restaurants that want to be fully organic can now put wine back on the menu. Wines labeled “organic” are produced from 100% natural, organic grapes and have no added preservatives. As with all things organic, there are a few benefits and drawbacks to natural wine when compared to conventional wine.
Biodynamic wine is a recent buzzword in the wine industry, but the practice of biodynamic agriculture has been around for decades, and it employs more holistic methods than simply eliminating pesticides and genetically engineered seeds. >> Learn More about Biodynamic Wine
The Benefits of Organic Wine
Health-conscious consumers are drawn to organic foods because of their various health and environmentally-friendly benefits. Here is a list of the benefits that are specific to organic wine:
Sustainable wine is better for the environment.
This is the big benefit of all organic foods. The grapes used in organic wine are produced using eco-friendly methods, so streams are not polluted with fertilizer runoff and overall land stewardship is better when organic farming techniques are employed, such as no pesticides or chemicals are used during planting or growing.
Natural wine has fewer sulfites.
Sulfur dioxide, or sulfites, occurs naturally in wine, but in conventional winemaking, additional sulfites are added to increase the shelf life. Some people are sensitive to sulfites, and even though they occur naturally in small amounts, the process of adding sulfites is not permitted if the wine is to be labeled "organic."
Organic wine is more healthful to drink.
Drinking wine in moderation has been shown to reduce the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, but since organic grapes are not sprayed with pesticides, the health benefits of organic wine increase.
The Drawbacks of Organic Wine
Even with the increased healthfulness and environmental benefits from producing and consuming organic wine, there are a few drawbacks that may discourage customers.
Organic wine has a short shelf life.
Sulfites are added to regular wine as a preservative which allows good non-organic wines to last for decades. In order to be certified organic, there can be no sulfites added to the wine. As a result, the shelf life of organic wine is only a couple of weeks, at most.
The wine doesn't taste the same.
Those added sulfites also enhance the flavor profile of the wine. Without the sulfites, organic wine can taste a little bland, and it is harder, if not impossible to taste all of the subtle flavors that wine aficionados enjoy.
It is more expensive.
Organic foods, including wine, can cost 20% more than their conventional counterparts.1 This may not make sense, since organic growers are spending less money on chemical additives and pesticides, but organic farming is a more labor-intensive process which increases the overall cost of producing organic food items. Learn More about Serving Organic Foods
Organic Wine Certification
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governing body for organic wine labeling, and in order to be certified organic, the grapes must be grown and the wine processed using 100% organic methods. The sulfite levels have to be fewer than 10 parts per million, which is low enough to assume that the levels are from naturally-occurring sulfites.2 Wine that is certified by the USDA as organic will have a USDA Organic label applied to it. Look for this label when purchasing organic wine for your restaurant.
1 "The (still) high cost of organic food," EarthEasy.com, http://eartheasy.com/article_high_cost_organic_food.htm (accessed December 20, 2010).
2 "Guidelines for Labeling: Wine With Organic References," United States Department of Agriculture: Agriculture Marketing Service, http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5077433&acct=nopgeninfo (accessed December 20, 2010).
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